Eleven of the 24 questions to Dawson during the half-hour news conference involved male-only clubs or related issues. Most golfers have shied away from the debate leading up to the Open, including top-ranked Woods.
When Rory McIlroy, the world’s No. 2 player, was first asked about it Wednesday, there was a long pause and a forced smile before he said, “Muirfield is a great golf course.”
Later, when someone asked McIlroy if the players had been advised not to comment, he was more forthcoming.
“I just think it’s something that a lot of guys don’t want to get themselves into because it’s quite a controversial issue,” he said. “It’s something that shouldn’t happen these days. It’s something that we shouldn’t even be talking about.”
Ernie Els said it’s “weird” that some clubs won’t admit both sexes, while Luke Donald said “we’d love to see these policies be a bit more inclusive.”
“Wherever the governing bodies decide to play a tournament, it’s my job to turn up and be ready and play, and that’s what I am going to,” Donald said. “I think the R&A is certainly trending in the right direction.”
But the leading Scottish politician won’t be attending this year’s event in protest.
“I just think it’s indefensible in the 21st century not to have a golf club that’s open to all,” said Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, a huge golf fan who played a round with Phil Mickelson last week.
Two British government members — Maria Miller, the secretary of culture, media and sport, and sports minister Hugh Robertson — have also turned down invitations to attend, though Robertson downplayed the impact of his decision.
“I haven’t had a call from the R&A saying we are going to change our policy next year, nor would I really expect one,” the minister said.