By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia wants professional golfers to be allowed to wear shorts during tournaments to better connect the pro game with the millions of amateurs around the world, the former Masters champion said on Wednesday.
More than a century of custom and etiquette came to an end at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the European Tour last week when organizers let players wear shorts because of soaring temperatures in South Africa.
Garcia said he had worn shorts to practice for the Australian Open on Monday and had been reminded by officials that long trousers would be required for the pro-am and when the tournament starts on Thursday.
"I've said it many times - I think at the end of the day, having the possibility of playing with shorts, it only kind of brings us together to the amateurs," the Spaniard told reporters at The Australian Golf Club.
"When you go to a course, unless it's winter and it's really cold, if it's spring or summer and the temperatures are nice, when you go to a normal course, 90 per cent of the people are wearing shorts, so I think the connection would feel even closer to the amateurs.
"It probably will happen but we don't know exactly when."
Garcia, who celebrates his 20th year as a professional this weekend, will be playing his first Australian Open and welcomed the chance to join the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer as a winner of the Stonehaven Cup.
"The names are very, very impressive. I know most of them. It just shows you the quality of this tournament," he said.
"It's a shame that I haven't played this Open before. It's my debut as almost a 40-year-old. It kind of sounds a little bit funny, but I'm excited to play well and give it a good run."
Temperatures in Sydney this week are unlikely to reach the heights that allowed the players to wear shorts in South Africa but Garcia was in any case more concerned about the winds that can whip across the lay-out in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.
"I think it's a really solid golf course, the kind of golf course that if the conditions are benign you can score, because it's not terribly long," he said.
"But if you get a little bit of wind, which usually you do here, those small greens then become very small targets and you have to be extremely precise to be able to hit them."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Richard Pullin)