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The Long And Shorts Of It: PGA Finally Allows For Some Player Comfort

This has not been a banner week for the PGA. Let’s face it, when one of your best players, Matt Kuchar, is laid bare for stiffing his caddy after taking down $1.3 million in Mexico, you can understand if some of us were wondering what’s become of this grand old game.

What pro golf needed was something to lighten the mood, something to show it’s capable of at least unbuttoning the top button once in a while. What it needed was to bring the sport back to the common man, whose love for the game is manifested walking the burned-out fairways of municipal courses in the middle of scorching summers. In shorts.

And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what has happened. Now, this doesn’t constitute a major rule change. The pros still can’t pick up the ball laying eight on the green at No. 13.  But now, they can wear shorts during Pro-Ams and practice rounds.

Jimmy Walker

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

According to the Tour, the change applies only to events sanctioned by the PGA Tour. But that means the new regulations go into effect this weekend during the WGC-Mexico Championship and the Puerto Rican Open. The USGA allows shorts in some competitions, just not the U.S. Open.

No longer will practicing pros be asked to swelter on 100-degree afternoons just to conform to archaic dress codes administered by guys who wear ties and bright-colored jackets in the middle of July.

Now they can patrol the fairways in their Bermuda shorts, just like they might do if they were playing in, well, you know, Bermuda.

This new rule does have its limitations; golfers must wear long pants during competitive rounds. We understand. There must be some adherence to tradition and civility. You can’t have John Daly showing up on Sunday in cut-offs and a tie-dyed tee-shirt. Order must prevail.

Still, if Tiger shows up at the clubhouse on a Tuesday in July, and doesn’t feel like wearing black pants, all he needs to do is google the new dress code:  Players’ shorts must be “knee-length, tailored and neat in appearance. Compression leggings worn underneath shorts must be solid in color.”

That makes sense. Tiger wearing tiger-striped leggings at Pebble Beach in June during the U.S. Open would be unsightly, although highly entertaining.

PGA Tour player advisory council (PAC) co-chairman James Hahn spread the cool news on social media on Monday. It’s actually just the next logical step. Players were permitted to wear shorts during practice rounds at the PGA Championship the previous two years. The European Tour made a similar rule change in 2016.

Lee Westwood

(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

And talk about great timing, the new dress code comes just before the start of the Tour’s sweaty swing through Florida, where perspiration often forms on brows – among other places.  You can see for yourself at The Honda Classic from Feb. 28-March 3 at PGA National Club, Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens.

Of course, this change is not the result of charitable action by leadership. Players have been tugging on their damp pant legs for decades, begging someone to come to their senses.

As you can imagine, the players are thrilled. Just last year, Tiger made his feelings known during the World Golf Championships at the Bridgestone Invitational.

“I would love it,” Woods said. “We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it’s summer down there.

“Also, a lot of the tournaments are based right around the equator so we play in some of the hottest places on the planet. It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts.”

Woods has been at the forefront regarding lightening the load for caddies, as well. In 1999, Woods convinced the Tour to chill at the Showdown at Sherwood, an exhibition he was playing against David Duval. The caddies were allowed to rock shorts since it wasn’t considered a Tour event.

The problem was, some stuffed shirt asked the caddies to put their pants on. Stevie Williams, who had Tiger’s bag at the point of his career, told the codger to take a hike. When the guy persisted, telling Williams he’d be banned from the Tour, Tiger spoke up.

“Guess I’ll be playing in Europe next year,” Woods told the official.

Guess who won that hole?

The Tour finally relented in July 1999 after a caddie was overcome by heat at the Western Open on a 106-degree day.

“It makes the guys a lot more comfortable,” Rory McIlroy said. “… I don’t think there’s anything wrong with professional golfers showing the lower half of their leg.”