Author: Bill Pennington
Publish date: 2023-05-20 22:15:45
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — For a while during the third round of the P.G.A. Championship on Saturday, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and three or four other golfers were roaming the august grounds of the Oak Hill Country Club with their caps on backward.
“It makes me feel cool,” Rose said. “Young. Hip.”
The attire at the 105th playing of the P.G.A. Championship on Saturday did not mark a revolution toward relaxed golf mores. Although, it is also true that the back-turned caps — not the norm in professional golf — did not draw penalties, hoots or disqualifications either, so maybe some welcomed informality is brewing in golf after all.
The world’s best golfers were experimenting with the best use of their headgear because of a relentless, driving rainstorm that pounded the Oak Hill Country Club throughout the day.
So, Rose, 42, was not trying to remake his image. That was him making a joke. He wore his cap backward because it had become soaked with rain and when he put his head down to hit the golf ball, beads of water drip, drip, dripped past his eyes and onto his ball.
“It actually put me off a little bit,” Rose said. “And at the top of my backswing, I had a couple of droplets fall down and it distracted me. I thought, this is annoying me, so let’s flip it.”
McIlroy offered the same explanation, although he and Rose both conceded that they had not worn their hat backward at a major golf championship before.
It is a known remedy on sloppy, rainy days, one seen regularly during bad weather at municipal golf courses, but the look was a little jarring when exhibited by the world’s best golfers.
And in case you were wondering, a spokeswoman for the P.G.A. of America, which conducts the P.G.A. Championship, confirmed that there is a player dress code, but apparently, wearing your cap backward does not violate the code because no golfer was penalized or pulled off the course.
In fact, Rose, Scheffler, McIlroy and Justin Suh, who was another backward hat rebel, were each in the top 10 entering Sunday’s final round, so maybe they knew something that most of the other golfers did not.
The soaked hats brigade was the most obvious example of the many adjustments that all the golfers in the field had to make because of Saturday’s rainstorm.
The rough weather also highlighted the role of the relationship between players and their caddies. Nothing is more complex than the umbrella handoff between players and caddies that happens thousands of times — almost always in the same sequence — during a rainy round. It is either comical or the epitome of efficient, unspoken coordination.
Usually in the fairway, in full view of the gallery of fans, it goes like this:
The player holds an umbrella over his head and over his bag while the caddie marches around in the pouring rain trying to figure out the distance of the player’s next shot to the green. When the caddie returns, the player hands the umbrella to him and selects a club from the bag. The caddie dries the club’s grip with a towel hanging from the interior spokes of the umbrella. When the player walks toward his ball in the fairway, the caddie holds the umbrella over the player’s head — but not his own head. This protection of the player is offered until just seconds before he begins his swing at the ball. That’s when the caddie steps to the side. At that moment, the caddie makes sure he’s holding the umbrella over the player’s golf bag, because keeping the bag dry is more important than keeping the caddie dry.
Once the ball is struck, the player hands his club to the caddie and the caddie hands over the umbrella. The player heads toward his ball, leaving the caddie to walk in the rain behind him, unprotected.
Or as Jon Rahm, the world’s top ranked golfer, said on Saturday: “I can just take the umbrella and go. He sacrifices.”
But Rahm appreciates his caddie, Adam Hayes, and knows what he endures.
“The bottom of the bag today had about two inches of water in it,” he said. “And his clothes were soaked through. He must be carrying about 35 pounds of water on him right now. His job is extra important on a rainy day.”
Stephan Jaeger, whose golf bag contained seven towels and other gear to get through a nearly five-hour round in the rain, said he thought his bag weighed 70 pounds on Saturday. The entire experience — the ongoing umbrella exchange, wiping the rain off the bill of his cap, trying to determine how many yards the wet grass would impede a shot — had left Jaeger, who was tied for 10th, exhausted.
“It’s a lot of effort,” he said minutes after walking off the golf course. “I think I’m going to feel it once I sit down and calm down. I think the adrenaline will wear off a little bit, and I’m going to be pretty tired. It’s a lot of thinking, a lot to consider.”
Jaeger was asked if he ever practiced in the rain between tournaments to get used to the experience.
Jaeger answered immediately: “No.”