The Diary

Returning to the controversy of the week at the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club’s lack of female members, a lobbying group called change.org entered the fray yesterday, looking to further increase the pressure on the private club to review its membership policy.

The issue is an annual talking point that blooms during Masters week as regularly as the azaleas but which carried extra intrigue this year when long-time championship sponsor IBM appointed a female chief executive for the first time. IBM’s previous chiefs were each afforded membership of ANGC during their tenures.

Club chairman Billy Payne stonewalled questioning from journalists on Wednesday and Change.org took up the baton yesterday, issuing a press release which listed an email address and phone number of the director of membership services at “Augusta Country Club”.

And not even the Augusta Country Club next door to Augusta National. Change.org was directing would-be complainants to Augusta Country Club in Maine. “They didn’t even get the right state,” a receptionist up in the far North-Eastern US muttered to a US media outlet.

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Rickie Fowler is enjoying bucking the trend of clean-shaven golfers. Fowler, Jason Day, Johnson Wagner and Geoff Ogilvy are receiving as much attention for their ability to grow facial hair as much as swinging a club.

It’s fun for us; we’ve got our own little clan,” said Fowler

Stroking his chin, he added, “I know there’s a lot of people that don’t like it and that’s one of the main reasons it’s still around. It’s just showing I’m myself.

Maybe it’s a good lesson to some kids out there: don’t worry about what others think of you, just be yourself.”

The Masters is not quite the only show in Augusta this week, at least as not as far as Irish Open officials are concerned.

Royal Portrush secretary manager Wilma Erskine was front and centre at Tourism Ireland’s annual Masters reception in the Georgia city on Thursday night, helping to put out the word to the lucrative US golf tourism market.

“The last time we had the Irish Open was in 1947 and this is a fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland to showcase Royal Portrush and Northern Ireland,” Erskine said. “We have fantastic links and fantastic golfers and what more do we need? I am personally excited but the European Tour is really excited and the golfers are very excited and I really think it’s going to be one great festival. We just can’t wait.”

Erskine added that preparations were going very smoothly for the June 28-July 1 tournament, which has commitments to play from all four of Ireland’s major champions Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

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Live coverage of the Masters tees off on Sky Sports 1 from 8pm tonight with final day drama getting underway at 6.30pm tomorrow. The event is available on Sky 3D from 9pm both nights.

For those tuning into the Beeb and Peter Alliss, BBC Two have live action from 8.30pm this evening and from 7pm tomorrow.

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Jason Day, who tied for second at last year’s Masters, withdrew during the second round with an injury to his left foot. Earlier in the week, Day limped off the driving range but said he was going to try to play through it.

The Australian shot a four-over 76 in the opening round and played seven holes on Friday before pulling out. He was even par on the day when he withdrew.

Weather Watch

The weekend looks ideal as far as the forecast is concerned. Tomorrow’s temperatures will be in the mid 20s centigrade. Winds will be a moderate 5-15 mph.

Quote of the Day

“Here’s Anders Hansen...it’s actually Peter Hanson...there are two of them...no relation...different spelling... different countries...”

A US commentator goes bogey bogey during yesterday’s coverage.

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