AS SOMEONE WHO came to golf later in life, there’s a lot about the game I still don’t understand – like some of the inscrutable rules and the rigid and senseless dress code in force on the pro tour. Just how rigid and senseless was underscored last week when Rickie Fowler made headlines at Torrey Pines by daring to wear a shirt not tucked into his slacks, bucking the custom that has been in place for golfers since at least the First World War. The daring part is overstated; he had to ask permission first from the Lords of the PGA, who for some reason (Fowler has been ranked as high as #4 in the world) granted his request. Oh, let’s take a flyer on this one, guys. It’s California.
Predictably, golf’s hidebound clan immediately took to Twitter to decry this violation of country club tradition, dissing Fowler’s full-buttoned and collared Hawaiian-style shirt (from Puma) as “unprofessional.” Some said he “looked like a bum.” “I thought he had manners?” “What’s next, shorts?” Please. What’s “professional” about John Daly’s fashion-crushing outfits? Or the unsightly bulk of Trump stuffed into standard links attire. I guess by PGA standards ugly doesn’t matter as long as you’ve got all the extra yards of fabric tucked into pants cinched with a white patent leather belt that could have belonged to Pat Boone or the guys on “The Love Boat.” By the way, who made that the modern golfer’s uniform? Not Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfinger.
I THOUGHT FOWLER looked great, but then I’ve been waiting and waiting for someone on the tour to bust this move. It’s long overdue and likely here to stay because untucked shirts can not only be flattering but are cooler and more practical if you’re walking 18 in the Sahara summers of Texas. And who wants to keep tucking in a wet shirt every other hole?
It defies logic and common sense that businessmen in the great Southwest still adhere to the obligatory coat and tie in July, when temps soar into the sweat-soaking 100s, but at least they spend most of their days indoors. Golfers get no such shelter and, with enough sunscreen, could play naked. At least let them wear loose shirts that allow more air flow to the upper body.
ON PUBLIC COURSES around here some amateurs already wear their shirts outside their pants in the summer (not to mention shorts) but they occasionally get the evil eye from purists who view such behavior as disrespectful of “the royal and ancient game.” By the way, the royal and ancient game had its beginnings in Scotland, where too much clothing was never a problem in any season.
Tennis gave up its archaic all-white dress code at the 1972 U.S. Open. Forty-seven years later, Rickie Fowler is giving the untucked among us the encouragement of a top-ranked player to be cool on the golf course. I’ll take it.