Tiger Woods was on the course for a practice round Sunday, four days before the Masters. So were Phil Mickelson and golf’s other top stars. But it was one of Mickelson’s playing partners, a new member of Augusta National Golf Club, who drew most of the attention.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of the first two women allowed to become members of the club last August, had a solid round that included making a 40-foot putt on the 18th hole.
“Awesome,” Mickelson said (via the Associated Press). “She’s one of my favorite people to be around. She’s so knowledgeable and interesting to talk to. I always learn so much. When I saw she became a member, one of the first things I did was schedule a game close to Masters time. The fact she’s here, we were able to work it out. It was really cool.”
Joined by Mickelson’s agent and another Augusta member, they played a $10 game in which they rotated partners every six holes. Rice, a 17 handicap, finished with a net birdie.
“Perfect pace,” Mickelson said. “Her speed, touch, being able to read the greens. She one of the better members on the greens that I’ve seen.”
“Every once in a while,” Rice joked.
Mickelson said he arranged the golf date shortly after learning last year that Augusta had invited Rice and financier Darla Moore to be the its first women members. “He’s such a good friend,” Rice said. “I’ve known him for years.”
After finishing her round, she donned a green jacket and walked around the practice range, pausing for a few minutes to speak with Woods, with whom she shares a Stanford connection. Woods was on the first tee with Steve Stricker, whose putting lessons have helped him win three tournaments this year, and T.J. Vogel, the U.S. Amateur Public Links winner.
“She was a provost when I was in school and one of the smartest human beings on the planet,” Woods told ESPN’s Mike Tirico. “She’s a good player … I would like to have a few friendly wagers when we go out there to play.”
Rice, 58, began playing golf eight years ago and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, is also a member of Shoal Creek Country Club in Alabama, which came under fire for racial exclusion in 1990, and Cypress Point in Monterey, Calif. Cypress Point was dropped from the AT&T rotation in 1990 because it had no black members (although women were allowed to join).
Rice told the Chronicle in February that she had no deliberate plan to change the face of golf by integrating those clubs. “I’m just trying to play golf, just trying to play golf. They’re great places. I’m honored to be a member of all of them.”