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PGA Tour quiet on Augusta issues

Despite continued pressure to take a tougher stance, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem yesterday refused to criticize Augusta National's all-male membership policy or cut ties with the Masters.

"That is a step we are not prepared to take," said Finchem, addressing the topic in his annual season-ending news conference on the state of the PGA Tour during the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

In recent weeks, as Augusta National has refused to comment or to budge on the matter, Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has increasingly tried to pressure the club by going after the PGA Tour and the corporations that sponsor the Masters.

After Finchem's remarks yesterday, Burk was not at a loss for words.

"If I were his board, I would be asking who he works for: Augusta National or the PGA Tour?" she said. "Clearly, the position he has taken is going to be an apologist for Augusta."

Before yesterday, the commissioner's only comments on the issue were made in an Aug. 20 letter to Burk that he made public. In the letter, he said the PGA Tour does not have a contract with the Georgia club and cannot force it to change its membership policy. He also said the tour does not plan to stop recognizing the Masters as one of golf's four major championships.

Yesterday, Finchem declined to be drawn into a debate over the club's policy. And he would not elaborate on any conversations he has had with Augusta National or with corporations that sponsor the Masters or any of the 49 sanctioned PGA Tour events.

"I know you're going to try to move me out of the confines of my statement," Finchem said. "You are not going to be successful."

Later, however, he added: "As far as I know, there's going to be a tournament at Augusta - the Masters - and it's going to be on CBS television, and our players are going to play. What else happens, I'm not going to speculate on that."

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