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Augusta membership arguments set to continue

An odd numbered year but no Ryder Cup. After the postponement which meant The Belfry match took place last September, Europe will not be defending it until 2004 at Oakland Hills. Instead, Europe's women will try to regain the Solheim Cup in Sweden, a match which was brought forward 12 months to avoid last year's clash with the men.

Royal St George's at Sandwich in Kent will host its first Open for 10 years. In what the late Gene Sarazen called the best day's championship golf he had seen, Greg Norman edged out Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer in 1993.

However, it will be the Masters which is the most high-profile major of the year, because the row about there being no women members at Augusta National has become a huge news story in the United States.

The battle between the club chairman Hootie Johnson and Martha Burk, of the National Council of Women's Organisations, has become as intense as anything on the course. Hootie has dispensed with the tournament's usual sponsors, while it has been suggested that protesters might disrupt the event.

Both the European and US tours left the announcements of their schedules later than usual as economic realities bite and, disappointingly, all four of the World Golf Championships will be taking place in America for the first time.

The most inspiring aspect of the season should be to see the continued emergence of youngsters such as Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Nick Dougherty and Paul Casey.


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