Finchem Says PGA Tour Must Overlook Augusta National Policies Because Masters Is "Too Important"
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem yesterday said that The Masters is “'too important' for the tour to take off its official schedule, even though Augusta National has never had a female member in its 80-year history,” according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. Finchem during his annual press conference before the start of The Players said, “We are not going to give up the Masters as a tournament on our tour. It’s too important. And so at the end of the day, the membership of that club have to determine their membership. They are not doing anything illegal.” Ferguson noted Tour policy "is not to co-sanction a tournament played on a golf course that does not allow women or minority members.” However, the Tour does not run The Masters or any of the other three majors. Finchem said, “We just elect to continue to recognize them as an official money event on the PGA Tour because we think it’s that important to golf. We don’t get to determining whether their policies are right or wrong, because we don’t have to.” The issue of Augusta National’s membership "resurfaced this year" because Virginia Rometty became the first female CEO in IBM’s 100-year history. IBM is a corporate sponsor of The Masters, and the "previous four CEOs of the company were invited to join" Augusta National. Finchem said that because the Tour “does not have a contract with the Masters, it has no leverage to enforce tour policies” (AP, 5/9).
ONLY CHOICE TO MAKE: In Orlando, Jeff Shain writes, “Really, the tour has no other choice. Suppose Finchem steps to a podium one day and says the Masters won’t count as an official victory or its winnings toward money list. Who would listen?" The Tour "can’t prohibit its members from competing in the event" (ORLANDO SENTNEL, 5/10). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits asks, “What does everyone expect from Finchem? If he announced today that the tour would not recognize the Masters as an official victory and the earning as official because Augusta National’s policy, can you imagine any player eligible for invitation not competing in the tournament?" Tour members "are allowed to enter a certain number of non-sanctioned events and you can bet this would be at the top of their list.” Smits: “Finchem’s hands are tied on this issue. Only Augusta National can loosen the knots” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 5/10). GOLFWEEK’s Jeff Rude wrote, “I don’t like that Augusta National gets a pass. I don’t like that the private club with public connections through the Masters hasn’t evolved to the point of admitting a female member. I don’t agree with the Tour’s double standard, its looking the other way in regard to the Masters. And I don’t like that Finchem said a golf tournament is more important than a discriminatory practice.” Rude added, “But I understand where he’s coming from. And I appreciate his candor. … He was honest with the ‘It’s too important’ stand. He had guts to say that instead of skirting the issue, as he has done deftly in the past” (GOLFWEEK.com, 5/9).