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Tiger expects Augusta to admit women

Tiger Woods expects Augusta National to have a female member by the next Masters because "it's the right thing to do," and he believes golf won't be hurt by the controversy.

"It's an organization's membership," Woods said Tuesday at the season-ending Tour Championship. "It's not the players' fault it's happening."

While the PGA Tour season officially ends Sunday, the debate over the all-male membership at Augusta National doesn't figure to wane.

It began in July, when club chairman Hootie Johnson issued a scathing, three-page statement that he would not let a national women's group force him to admit a female.

Since then, Johnson has dropped corporate television sponsors, while the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations has put pressure on prominent Augusta National members.

Martha Burk also said this week she wanted PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to take a stand by no longer counting the Masters as an official event.

Asked if the controversy would reflect poorly on golf if it is not resolved by the Masters in April, Woods said, "I'm sure Hootie will probably have a female member by then."

The club has not issued a comment since Johnson said in late August he was dropping TV sponsors to keep them out of the fray.

"It's the right thing to do," Woods said. "He would have done it anyway over time. He might be forced to have to do it, which is a shame because it's not how you want to do things. I'm sure he would have done it the right way, but now it's not going to be a good situation."

Finchem was to give his "State of the Tour" speech Wednesday at East Lake.

Already, some players have declined to comment on the all-male membership at Augusta National, home of one of the four major championships and the most popular event in golf.

Woods has said he supports both causes - there should be a female member, but the private club has a right to set its own membership policies.

Burk has criticized Woods for not taking a stronger position, saying two weeks ago, "If others had taken that view, he'd be a caddie at Augusta. He wouldn't be a player."

"I certainly understand her opinion," Woods said. "I don't agree with it, but I respect it. I wish and hope she will feel the same way about my opinion."

Woods said he expects the debate to gain steam, especially as the PGA Tour season starts again in January. Still, he doesn't think the issue will hurt a sport that had been free of image problems.

"It's not like a lot of these guys are committing felonies out here," Woods said. "I think it's such a strong sport right now, I don't see that happening as much as people might think."

Augusta National has said it does not have exclusionary policies, noting that women played more than 1,000 rounds last year. Nonetheless, it has not had a female member in its 69-year history and did not admit a black member until 1990.

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