Tiger Woods TOUR Championship
Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods won the TOUR Championship, his first victory in five years. He slogged his way to the finish with two bogies in the final four holes, but he enjoyed the stroll towards the green of East Lake Golf Course in Atlanta, Georgia, leading a Tiger swarm not seen in years.

“I had a hard time not crying coming up the last hole,” he said. “I had to suck it up and hit some shots.”

And when he hit his final putt on 18, the NBC announcer said what so many thought, that after so much injury, so many surgeries, and a very long championship drought, Tiger was back. “We thought we’d never see it. Probably he didn’t either. Tiger Woods – a winner again. Number 80.”

Up by three holes at 14 in the final round, his closest competitors fading, Woods two putts a birdie chance away, bogies away two shots on 15 and 16, and then hangs on for a 2-shot victory over fellow American Billy Horschel. “It was a just grind,” said Woods on NBC. “I loved every bit of it – the fight and the grind and the tough conditions. I loved every bit of it.

Tiger Woods TOUR Championship 2
TWITTER: Congratulations to our boss on winning the Tour Championship today, marking it his 80th PGA Tour victory and a comeback for the ages. – TGR #TW80

Justin Rose, who won gold at the re-boot of Olympic golf in Rio, finished tied for fourth but with enough points to win the FedEx Cup. Woods is not thinking of Tokyo 2020 right now, but you can bet organizers and members of the Kasumigaseki Country Club are catching Tiger Fever. The Kasumigaseki C. C. in particular does not want the gender controversy to get attention every time their club is mentioned, so a little Tiger magic will distract.

Will Tiger make it to Tokyo, and be one of the incandescent stars of Tokyo2020?

Right now, Tiger doesn’t make the cut.

According to the International Golf Federation (IGF), the Olympics limit the number of players to 60 each for the men’s and women’s competitions. The IGF will look to the official world golf rankings as a basis of their own Olympic World Golf Rankings (OWGR). The top 15 men in the world, ranked over the period of July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020, will be eligible to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There is a caveat – with countries rich in golf talent, there is a limit of four players.

Unless, Tiger really gets his game into high gear in the coming 22 months, he could get left behind. According to gold prognosticator, Nosferatu, Americans -Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambreau, Rickie Fowler, and Jordan Spieth – already occupy the first six slots in the OWGR rank list as of today. The PGA Tour official world gold ranking has Woods at 21, with 11 Americans ahead of him.

But that was before Woods’ final putt on 18 today. And he had already climbed from 80th in April to 13th in September in the OWGR. What do the coming weeks months have in store? Hopefully, we can follow those tiger tracks all the way to Tokyo in 2020.

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Muirfield Golf Club
Muirfield Golf Club

 

The oldest golf club in the world, Muirfield Golf Club, located in Scotland, the birthplace of golf, recently decided to provide women the opportunity to have equal membership with male members. It took 273 years, but as Virginia Slims once proclaimed, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

This change in policy came after the famed golf club was denied the chance to host the British Open golf championship because of its membership rules. Other clubs like R&A, The Royal St George’s and Royal Troon in Scotland, Augusta National in the USA, and most recently the Royal Adelaide Golf Club in Australia have changed their membership policies to allow for full membership to women.

But the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, not far from Tokyo, has stuck to its guns despite significant pressure to offer equal membership rights to women. Currently, female members of the Kasumigaseki C. C. are not considered full members, and are not allowed to play on Sundays. Ordinarily, this particular policy would go unnoticed if not for the fact that Kasumigaseki C. C. was selected to be the Olympic venue for golf during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike fired the first salvo in January when she said she felt “very uncomfortable that women cannot become full members in the 21st century.”

More recently, International Olympic Committee Vice President, John Coates, said that “Image-wise, our position is clear. We will only go to a club that has non-discrimination.”

Coates went on to reveal that discussions with the Kasumigaseki Country Club have been positive, and that “It’s heading in the right direction for them to have a nondiscriminatory membership procedure. It would appear that we should be able to have this result by the end of June.”

So will Kasumigaseki Country Club end up par for the course, or will they shank their last drive and lose out on this golden opportunity at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

 

UPDATE: On March 20, 2017, the 15 board members of the Kasumigaseki Golf Club, all men, voted unanimously to overturn restrictions on full membership for women.

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Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe City, Japan. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” – Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter

Principle 6 was challenged by Russia in the lead up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics when:

  • a Russian judge would not allow construction of a Pride House, which is where athletes who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) can gather during an Olympic Games, and
  • a law was passed that banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors, which was perceived to outlaw any reference to LGBT.

The associated homophobic violence in Russia and the uproar in media outside of Russia left the IOC wondering what they could do to give teeth to Principle 6. But it’s likely they only really started considering the seriousness of the situation when a group of over 50 current and former Olympians banded together to start a campaign asking the Russian government to reconsider the law on “gay propaganda”. They called this campaign, the Principle 6 Campaign.

The IOC got the message. According to The Guardian, the IOC established a new clause to the host city contract. So when a city bids for an Olympic Games, their bid mush show they are complying with this clause: “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.”

Perhaps unfortunately, the host city contract did not have these “teeth” in 2007 when Sochi won the bid for 2014. But any city wanting to bid in the future have to show their country is not blatantly exercising discrimination.

Japan is not a country that blatantly discriminates. While it is considered one of the most meritocratic countries in the world, there are times when non-Japanese have various cultural or legal issues, or females wonder whether they are getting treated fairly. But it is subtle and discussion today is more common and open on the issues and how to improve them.

Which brings us to golf.

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Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, has asked the proposed course for the golf tournament at the 2020 Olympics, Kasumigaseki Country Club, to admit women members Credit: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock

For the first time in history, Tokyo has a female governor, Yuriko Koike. In addition to taking a microscope to the ballooning Tokyo2020 budget, she poked the ribs of an organization that does not allow women to enjoy full membership – the Kasumigaseki Country Club. Under ordinary circumstances, it is unlikely that a governor would want to take on a private association over female membership as a top ten priority. But Japan will be hosting the 2020 Summer Games, and Kasumigaeki CC is slated to be the venue for golf. Suddenly, the country club became an easy target.

Why?

Because the governor can exercise what is known in Japan as “gai-atsu”, or the tactic of