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Woods becomes embroiled in Augusta debate

Tiger Woods has given his opinion on whether women should be members at Augusta National Golf Club, and the world's top-ranked player said people should respect it or not ask for it.

Woods, in an interview published Sunday in The New York Times, said he is trying to avoid situations in which he can't seem to come out on the right side.

"I have the feeling that sometimes I can't say anything, because I'm going to get criticised," Woods told the paper. "And what's unfair about that is, people always ask my opinion. They ask for my opinion, and then sometimes when I give it to them, they don't respect what I have to say. If that's the case, then don't ask."

He said he was surprised his opinion in this particular debate has become so important.

"I didn't see it coming to this degree," he said. "Yes, I've always wanted to impact lives in a positive way. But I like to pick my own causes, and not be forced into having to do something."

Woods denied he avoids political controversy to protect his corporate interests and endorsements.

"There's no validity to that at all," he said. "I'll say what I believe, but I'll choose when," Woods told the paper on Friday from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where he finished third in the Walt Disney World Golf Classic.

The issue of women membership at Augusta was first brought up to Woods during the British Open in July.

At that time he said, "It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate, but there is nothing you can do about it."

When asked again last week, Woods gave a more detailed answer.

"Do I want to see a female member?" he said. "Yes. But it's our right to have any club set up the way we want to."

Woods called for a compromise to be worked out by Hootie Johnson, the chairman of Augusta National, and Martha Burk, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations.

"If they both sat down and talked about it, it would be resolved a lot better than what is going on right now," Woods said Wednesday.

Johnson has said Augusta does not have exclusionary policies, although it has never had a female member in its 70 years, and it wasn't until 1990 that the club admitted a black member.

As Burk began to pressure corporate sponsors of the Masters, Johnson responded in late August by dropping them for next year's tournament, making the Masters the only commercial-free sports broadcast on network television.

In recent weeks, the chief executives of American Express, Citigroup Corp. and the U.S. Olympic Committee - all members at Augusta - have issued statements supporting female members at the home of the Masters.

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