Tiger Woods won't be playing at the British Open. Muirfield, the club hosting this year's event, has barred blacks from membership throughout its history, and this year extended the honor to players. Woods appeared disappointed but accepts the decision. ". . . they're entitled to set up their own rules the way they want them," he said. "It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate... but there's nothing you can do about it."
There's been some protest, but only a little. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, says the club's decision is "indefensible in the 21st century" and he's planning to boycott the Open. Two British government officials will also skip the tourney.
It remains to been seen whether this tiniest of protests will grow as the world's oldest major golf tournament gets underway this week at a club that discriminates against blacks. One would think with a black man in the White House, Woods' compadres on the U.S. PGA tour would be speaking up. So far, nary a peep.
Most of Woods' American competitors on the golf circuit have either avoided the issue or refused to condemn the club. But according to the New York Times, plenty of other statements have been made. (White) South African Ernie Els, the defending champion and also winner of the British Open when it was last held at Muirfield in 2002, at least posed the question. "We've got presidents and prime ministers who are blacks. Should the Open be there?" Answering himself, he hedged his bet with, "We play the Open Championship at this wonderful golf course, and I'm not going to miss it for the world, whether it's got, unfortunately, the policy it has."
Geoff Ogilvy, a former United States Open champion from Australia, described the club's policy as "archaic" but agreed with Woods: "I don't agree with their stance but you can't force people to do something."
No Muirfield members have commented (like Augusta National members, they undoubtedly would need permission). But the club issued a statement explaining that blacks are welcome to play as invited guests "with full use of the facilities" and added that Muirfield has hosted "many blacks-only events." (One wonders if the water fountains are marked "Colored" and "White.")
Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, the ruling body that oversees the British Open, has said repeatedly that it won't drop Muirfield as a venue. "We wouldn't think of doing it," he told reporters. And anyway, he thinks the idea that barring blacks sends out a dreadful message to the world is "considerably overblown."
"I don't deny my job would be made a lot easier if this issue didn't exist, that's self-evident," Dawson lamented last spring. "But one might choose to respect the wishes of members of these clubs, that the status quo works extremely well for them."
Woods appeared to be taking it like a man. "I don't make the policies here. I'm not a member, so I'm not going to speak for the club," he concluded.
Well, ok. I'm just kidding. If you've clicked on the above links, you're already in on the joke -- which is really no joke at all. If you haven't, read this piece again. Every quote is accurate -- except for one tiny change. Everywhere you see the word "black," it was substituted for "woman" in the original context.
We learned long ago that blatant race discrimination is wrong. How long must women wait?
Listen to the audio blog here: