The male-only membership of Augusta National Golf Club is a topic of conversation once again as the 76th Masters prepares to tee off on Thursday at the famed course.

Nine years after a protest by women's groups outside the gates of Augusta National during the tournament, the focus is on IBM chief executive officer Virginia Rometty and whether or not she will become the club's first woman.

IBM is among the sponsors of the Masters and for nearly 30 years, IBM chief executives have been granted membership at the exclusive organization, a private club that is not required to induct women.

The question is set to arise again on Wednesday when Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, the key figure behind Atlanta hosting the 1996 Olympics, speaks with reporters on the eve of the year's first major championship.

Typically, membership issues are deemed private club matters when questions are raised.

As such, Rometty, who on January 1 became IBM's first woman in the top executive post, might already be a groundbreaking member of the 79-year-old club.