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Savran: Woods' best stance is with a golf club

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Oh, and just a couple more questions, Tiger. Do you think we should invade Iraq? And are you concerned that Washington foxes are guarding Wall Street hen houses? And finally, do you think creamy smooth is better than crunchy peanut butter?"

It's not at all a terribly taxing stretch of one's imagination (or Tiger Woods' patience) to expect those queries to be put to him at some news conference today in Scotland or tomorrow in Wherever U.S.A.

After all, being the best golfer in the world, and the best of his generation, obligates Tiger to pontificate on any number of matters unrelated to his particular skill, doesn't it?

No, of course it doesn't!

The outrage over Woods' reluctance and ultimate refusal to get sucked into -- I can think of no better term -- the controversy surrounding Augusta National Golf Club, utterly amazed me.

A columnist at one of the New York tabloid rags called him a gutless hypocrite.

What, he's expected to say something about everything because he's a great golfer?

That's utter nonsense.

I recognize that these tabloids sell to the great unwashed, who cannot think their way through the automatic check-out service at the grocery store.

Incendiary headlines draw that crowd to buy the newspaper, then they need to have it read to them while they look at the pictures.

It's ridiculous to suggest that as the game's biggest star and also a man of color, Woods is somehow obligated to speak out and that he's shirking his golf and social responsibilities by not doing so.

By the way, only an opinion condemning Augusta National would have satisfied his critics.

Had he come out in support of the club's position, he would have been roundly condemned.

If he had ripped into the exclusionary policies at Augusta, and Muirfield for that matter, he would have betrayed his own beliefs.

For the record, Tiger did take a stance. He said that it was the club's prerogative to grant or deny admission on whatever basis it chooses. It is, after all, a private club.

That, ladies and gentlemen, constitutes a stance.

What his critics wanted him to do was to take it a step further and denounce such practices.

He said he wished it was some other way, but it's not, and there's not much anyone can do about it.

That's legitimate, realistic and complete. What more do they want?

Well, they wanted headlines is what they wanted.

"TIGER RIPS AUGUSTA NATIONAL FOR EXCLUDING WOMEN!!!"

That's what they wanted, but he was too smart to give it to them.

They're not mad because Tiger didn't support this "crusade" by a woman's group, they're mad because they didn't get the headlines, plain and simple.

As for the issue itself, if Augusta National excluded minorities from participating in the Masters, which it did until the relatively recent past, you've got yourself a valid issue.

Then if Tiger remains silent, there's every right to rake him over the coals.

But we're talking about club membership here.

As a caller suggested on my talk show this week, if you want to start a club only for people shorter than 5 feet, why shouldn't you be allowed to do it? Should we then form a coalition of 5-footers and file a lawsuit?

Besides, why would anyone want to belong to a club that doesn't want them as a member?

Without defending Augusta monarch Hootie Johnson, but rather defending his position, I suspect that this woman's group really doesn't want to be awarded membership or even play a single hole at Augusta.

It's to further a crusade.

And if, for some reason, political correctness forced Augusta to admit women, as the club was forced to finally accept a black member in 1990, does that really represent social progress?

And does that gentleman member actually feel wanted, accepted or celebrated by his fellow club members?

What do you think?

If someone asks Woods about the state of golf equipment or the idea of all players playing the same golf balls at tournaments or anything directly related to the game, then he does have an obligation as the game's premier figure to respond. But in this controversy, the questions don't meet that criterion.

In point of fact, he did respond. In effect he said, "I don't have to like it. It doesn't matter whether I do or not. It's their club, and they can do whatever they want."

That's a drive as straight and true, down the middle of the fairway, as anyone could hit.


Stan Savran hosts a sports talk show, weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. on WBGG-AM (970).

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