April 9 (Bloomberg) -- Tiger Woods applauded the addition of Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore to the list of members at Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Woods said at a press conference today in Augusta, Georgia. “It was the right timing. And for me, knowing Condoleezza over all these years, it couldn’t have been a better person.”
Woods, 37, attended Stanford University, where Rice, the 58-year-old former U.S. Secretary of State, is now a professor and senior fellow.
Woods was the first black golfer to win the Masters, in 1997, at the private club that didn’t admit its first black member until 1990. He and his wife of four years, Elin Nordegren, divorced after Woods acknowledged a series of extramarital affairs.
Rice and Moore, a Rainwater Inc. financier, became the private club’s first female members in August 2012 following almost a decade of scrutiny over its all-male membership.
Rice played a casual round of golf with three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson two days ago ahead of this week’s tournament. She was later shown by the Golf Channel wearing the club’s traditional green jacket as she talked with players and fellow members on the practice range.
“She happens to be one of my favorite people to spend time with,” Mickelson said in a press conference today. “Fascinating, intelligent. I’ve been a big fan of hers and have been fortunate to get to know her over the years. She never disappoints. She’s just a special person.”
Rice, who mingled with members and guests at the club’s new Berckmans Place hospitality pavilion yesterday, hasn’t spoken with the media this week. Augusta National members don’t give interviews during the event, according to club policy.
Augusta National’s members include Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffett and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates. Controversy over the club’s all-male membership flared last March when Bloomberg News reported that the ascension of Ginni Rometty to the chief executive officer’s job with International Business Machines Corp., a tournament sponsor, would create a conundrum for the organization: It would have to either stop offering membership to IBM CEOs or break its prohibition on women in general.
Rice and Moore were added five months later.
Mickelson said Rice ended her round two days ago with a 40-foot par putt at the final hole, according to the Golf Channel.
As Rice played a round with Mickelson, MSNBC aired an interview with Moore, 58, who described her invitation to become an Augusta National member as a “lifetime honor.”
Moore, who was interviewed at her 300-acre estate in Lake City, South Carolina, said that while her goal as a philanthropist is to effect positive change, she has no plans to push for more female members at the golf club.
“I wouldn’t think that would be something I would do,” Moore said in the interview. “That wouldn’t be my role there. I’m a member. I’m not an advocate, I’m a member.”
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