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  Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK
Woods joins Muirfield debate
Tiger Woods
Woods admitted private clubs can do as they please
Tiger Woods has defended Muirfield's men-only membership policy but admitted he would rather see golf opened up to all sections of society.

The world number one was speaking in the wake of comments by England and Wales Sports Minister Richard Caborn, who criticised the club's refusal to admit women golfers.

The Muirfield course was laid out 111 years ago and is home to the much older Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers who held their first meeting on Leith Links in 1744.

Woods admitted that as a private club Muirfield officials were entitled to make their own rules.


A lot of these clubs believe in their way of doing things and they've believed in it for a long period of time
Tiger Woods

"It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate if they wanted to but there is nothing you can do about it," said the 26-year-old.

"If you have a group, an organisation, and that's the way they want to set it up, then that's their prerogative.

He added: "If you just pigeonholed this single issue (of restrictions in golf), I think you're not doing justice to the bigger scope.

"It's just not simple. There's more to it than 'he's too young or he's not the right race or he doesn't believe in the right religion'."

Woods, who is of African-American and Thai parentage, denied he was not making the most of his position as the world's best-known sportsman to integrate minorities into sport.

He said: "I've done my part so far trying to get more kids who haven't been able to have access to the game, that's what my foundation is all about.

"I'm trying to do my share in my sector where I'm really focused.

"But it's not easy. A lot of these clubs believe in their way of doing things and they've believed in it for a long period of time."

Caborn said earlier this week that more should be done by governing bodies to give women the opportunity to participate in sport.
Peter Dawson, secretary of the Royal and Ancient
Dawson says pressure to change comes from outside game

But Royal and Ancient golf club secretary Peter Dawson told BBC Sport Online that the R&A's chief responsibility was to provide the best course for the third Major of 2002.

"It is our job to send the Open to the best links course in the country and here we are," he said.

"There are three men-only and two-women only clubs at St Andrews, we don't have mixed clubs.

"All the pressure for this change comes from outside the game - not inside."

While not attacking Muirfield directly, Caborn has asked golf chiefs to "reflect" on their current attitudes.

"It is about trying to get governing bodies to do all they can in the 21st century to get the widest participation in sport," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

But Jane Carter, editor of Golf Monthly magazine, wants the R&A to move with the times and change their single-sex policy.

"It is a sad indictment of the R&A in the 21st century that the showcase of golf has been taken to a club that doesn't welcome women," she said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Tiger Woods
"It's just one of those things"
BBC News' Colin Blane
"Women can't be members at Muirfield"
BBC Sport Online's Open Golf Championship news section

All the Muirfield action

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16 Jul 02 | Sports Talk
15 Jul 02 | The Open
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