Can you imagine how Billy Payne’s head would have exploded if newly anointed Masters winner Bubba Watson told the world he opposed Augusta National’s male-only membership policy?
Too bad no one asked Watson for his opinion on the volatile subject during his Sunday night press conference. Because Payne, who steadfastly refuses to discuss such matters, might have sweated through the armpits of his green jacket if Watson’s answer remained the same as it was a year ago.
Golf Magazine promised anonymity when it asked 40 PGA Tour pros at four events during the 2011 season for their opinions on "all things Augusta." Watson, who plays the game as fearlessly as anyone in the history of the sport, was just as dauntless with his forthright, and very public, response to one of the most controversial queries.
To the question, “Does it bother you that the club's membership excludes women?” Watson replied, “Yeah, I care, and you can quote me on it -- Bubba Watson.”
As Golf.com’s Mike Walker noted on Monday, 90 percent of Watson’s colleagues said, eh, not so much.
"Nothing about the club's policies bothers me,” responded one nameless tour pro, who may have been the same survey participant to offer these other replies:
"It's their club. They can do as they like,” and, "You're asking the wrong people this question."
Had he been a member of the U.S. tour last year, Lee Westwood would likely have been among the 90-percenters.
"What gender issue? I’m a man," Westwood told reporters last week. “It’s not something I think about.”
More than 62 percent of the golfers surveyed also opined, by the way, that Augusta National would “never” admit a woman member.
The issue of Augusta’s membership practice exploded this year, after long-time Masters sponsor IBM named a woman, Virginia Rometty, as its chief executive in January. During his annual media meet-up, ANGC chair Payne time and again turned away questions about the club’s discriminatory policy.
“As has been the case, whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to private deliberations of the members,” Payne said last Wednesday. “That statement remains accurate and that remains my statement.”