AUGUSTA, Ga. - On a day that required a deft touch, Tiger Woods spent a portion of his Masters tuneup avoiding some nasty hazards at the Augusta National Golf Club. And that was just in the interview room.
Since his record-setting victory in 1997, Woods has had little trouble fending off challengers and winning green jackets. That's why he comes to Augusta National as the overwhelming favorite to do what no player has done before - win three consecutive Masters.
Yesterday, though, Woods was equally adept at deflecting questions about Augusta National's all-male membership policies and the planned demonstrations later in the week by Martha Burk and the National Council of Women's Organizations. He handled those the same way he handled Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh on the final nine holes last year at Augusta - by not slipping up.
“I think we also have a lot more important things going on in our country, in our world affairs, right now,” Woods said, referring to the war in Iraq.
That was the start of Woods' 30-minute session with the national media, and it began a series of questions about his stance on discriminatory policies at private clubs and whether he believes he should be obligated to take a position on such issues.
To be sure, there were several questions about his attempt to win his third Masters in a row. In the 67-year history of the tournament, only Jack Nicklaus (1965-66) and Nick Faldo (1989-1990) had won back-to-back Masters before Woods.
But a good portion of his session was spent dealing with a person who isn't even in the field and issues that have nothing to do with Woods trying to win his ninth major.
“I'll be honest with you, I haven't really been reading any of the papers or reading anything about this event or watching it on TV,” Woods said. “I've been glued to what's going on overseas.”
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Gerry Dulac is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.