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Mixed reaction to shorts ruling as European Tour tees off

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Malelane (South Africa) (AFP)

Many golfers opted to play in trousers Thursday despite being allowed to wear shorts because of intense heat when the 2020 European Tour season teed off in South Africa.

With temperatures set to reach 40 degrees celsius (104 fahrenheit) during the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the organisers said shorts could be worn for the first time at an EPGA event.

While golfers wear shorts during practice rounds and at pre-tournament pro-ams, they were not permitted during competitions until the searing heat brought a change of heart this week.

Females can wear shorts on the various professional circuits, including Europe, Asia and the United States.

Among those who donned shorts for the first round of the Dunhill at Leopard Creek Country Club beside the Kruger National Park wildlife reserve was four-time major winner Ernie Els.

"It is the right thing to do and a victory for common sense," said the 50-year-old South Africa, ranked 424 in the world and in the twilight of his illustrious career.

"Wearing shorts in extreme heat has been talked about for so long on all of the tours around the world.

"I think this could be a game-changer for golf that will end up enhancing the product," added the two-time winner of both the British and US Open championships.

Dane Thomas Bjorn, captain of the 2018 Europe and Ireland Ryder Cup team, was another competitor to wear shorts at the stunningly picturesque course in northeastern South Africa.

- 'Comfortable' -

"Golf has been moving in this direction and because of the extreme heat we need to make it as comfortable for the players as we can.

"There are traditions in golf that will always be upheld, but we also need to try and make it easier for kids to get involved in the game and move with the times."

European Tour tournament director David Williams said the decision was made to protect player health.

"The temperatures will increase as the week goes on and a lot of players were concerned about it," he said.

"In these temperatures it can be pretty uncomfortable out there in trousers, so the feedback from the players has certainly been positive."

The relaxed rules on shorts will apply only to the Alfred Dunhill Championship tournament for now, a European Tour statement said.

Daniel Greene was first to tee off Thursday, at 0620 local time (0420 GMT), and opted for trousers, unlike most of his South African compatriots.

Another who preferred trousers was Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, who shared the early clubhouse lead on 66 with Garrick Porteous of England and Will Besseling from the Netherlands.

Golf is a sport steeped in tradition with European Tour competitors wearing shoes, trousers, a golf shirt and, usually, a cap for decades.

Additional clothing, like a jacket, is added when the weather turns cold or wet.

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