Anybody who’s watched Netflix’ ‘Full Swing’ documentary series knows one thing for it was inescapable. In golf, after 36 holes there’s a cut. If you’re not in that top 65-and-ties, you’ve missed that cut. You’re not playing the weekend. You’re not getting paid. And it’s that simple!
Obviously, pandering to a new audience, many of whom are as familiar with golf as Ian Poulter is with humility, what the golfing zealots among us take for granted needed to be spelled out. Still, it probably didn’t need to be spelled out in practically every single episode, but the fact that it was makes the PGA Tour’s plans to eliminate that cut from select designated events going forward all the more jarring.
Reducing the field size? I’ve no problem with that. Until the PGA Tour – and not just the PGA Tour, this is a global problem – adequately penalise slow play, even getting a 120-man field to complete 18 holes in a single day outside the heights of summer is a struggle. Extend that to 156 players and you’ve next to no chance.
That said, I think 70 (or even 80) is a little small. The Masters field is typically just under 100, and I’d argue that that’s the Goldilocks zone; just right. And the top 50-and-ties make the cut at Augusta National’s showpiece event, viewed by many – including this writer – as the greatest event in golf.
Unsurprisingly, the top PGA Tour players are all for the reduced field, no cut events. Anything else would be akin to turkeys voting against the cancellation of Christmas. Great for the players? Yeah. Great for the sponsors? Sure. Great for the fans? Not so much. Then again, the fans have always been pretty far down the priority list when it comes to the PGA Tour.
Taking away the cut takes away one of the major talking points of the first two days. Had we been guaranteed to see Tiger Woods for four rounds at the Genesis last month, then who’d have really cared if he bogeyed three of his final four holes on Friday? I watched the provisional cut line like a hawk afterwards, because not only did I desperately want to see him play at the weekend, I desperately wanted him to make the cut.
There would have been no effective difference in Tiger’s second-round 73 becoming a 74 and his closing 72 becoming a 71. None. Instead, we know that he beat Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Matt Fitzpatrick and Hideki Matsuyama over those first two rounds and the reward came with a weekend tee time, and the punishment for the rest was a taxi to the airport.
Max Homa argued that having a 100-odd field size for the designated events would lead to much inferior fields at regular PGA Tour stops, and to be fair, he’s probably right. But that’s an issue with the PGA Tour’s eligibility criteria. At this week’s Puerto Rico Open – an alternate PGA Tour event – and with no Korn Ferry Tour event being held opposite, the field is staggeringly bad.
Boo Weekley – you may remember him as the Kentucky boy who Yee-Haw’d and rode his driver like it was a horse during the 2008 Ryder Cup – is in the field. Weekley has made nine starts in the last two years – seven on the Korn Ferry and two on the PGA Tour – missing seven cuts and with two T56 finishes on the KFT in the two cuts made.
Omar Uresti is a 54-year-old who’s made one cut since 2020, Kevin Stadler has made three cuts in his last 24 starts with a best finish of T53, and they’re jointly ranked 3205 in the world. I could go on and on but you get the picture.
Meanwhile, the top five in the Korn Ferry standings have the week off because they’re superseded in the eligibility criteria by the likes of Uresti and co., despite wiping the floor with them any time they tee it up on the KFT. And any of the top ranked KFT players are capable of mixing it on the PGA Tour – we’ve recently seen Will Zalatoris and Cameron Young come straight off the development tour and feature heavily on major championship leaderboards – so while Homa has a point, it’s easily rectified.
In WGC’s in the past, we’ve seen players turn up, hit one tee shot and withdraw, still collecting a $50,000 paycheck for their troubles whilst denying another player an opportunity to compete. Had there been a cut, that player would’ve withdrawn prior to the event, allowing another to take their place and have the potential for a life changing week. I’m not saying that this will become commonplace in no-cut designated events, but it should never have the chance of happening.
But ultimately, keeping the stars happy is the PGA Tour’s prerogative, especially with the added threat of LIV waiting in the shadows.
You, I and the wider golf world might be totally against it.
But they’ve never cared what we think.
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