Payne welcomes back all tour winners, but not women

April 4, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- With Billy Payne in charge, winners of PGA Tour events will once again receive their automatic invitations to the Masters.

As for women at Augusta National? Well, it's going to take more than new management to change that policy.

Payne became chairman last May and announced his first major change in his State of the Masters news conference Wednesday.

Winners of most PGA Tour events will again qualify for the Masters, an exemption that was taken away after 1999. But under the new rules, winners of events opposite the majors and World Golf Championships and of tournaments on the new fall schedule will not get automatic invitations.

Payne anticipated a question about allowing women to become members of Augusta National, and he dodged it. Payne said all members and membership are subject to the private deliberations of the members. He said other than that, he is not going to discuss it.

Augusta is four years removed from protests led by Martha Burk, who demanded the club admit women as members or risk a boycott of CBS and other Masters supporters. That effort failed, though, and brought no change.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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