Lee Westwood probably made no new female fans on Tuesday, when he treated Augusta National Golf Club’s august tradition of banning women from membership as something of a joke.
"What gender issue? I’m a man," Westwood told reporters during his press conference as he nodded and looked south.
Whether or not men’s golf’s third-ranked player was feigning ignorance about this year’s edition of the annual controversy surrounding Augusta National’s male-only custom, his flippant response was likely similar to many of his colleagues who did not face similar questions during their media meet-ups.
"It’s not something I think about," the enlightened Englishman averred. Pressed further, he said he really had no opinion on the matter.
"Not going to go there?" the questioner persisted. "No," Westwood confirmed, reportedly to gales of laughter.
The issue, which ANGC chair Billy Payne will no doubt ignore during his annual press conference on Wednesday, has gained immediacy 10 years after Martha Burk led an unsuccessful campaign to get corporations to cut ties with the Masters. With tourney sponsor IBM naming Virginia Rometty as its new president and chief executive, some critics of Augusta National’s exclusionary policy believe Payne has no choice but to offer Rometty the same respect other IBM head honchos have received over the years.
Others, however, believe Payne will treat the matter of gender equality with as much respect as Westwood has.