What Is the PGA Tour Cut Rule?

Explaining How Many Golfers Make the Cut on the PGA Tour

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The standard cut rule used in "regular" PGA Tour tournaments (as opposed to major championships and several other tournaments that have their own, separate cut rule policies) is this: The field is cut after 36 holes to the low 70 scores plus ties. However, if that results in more than 78 golfers making the cut (due to many golfers being tied for 70th place), a second cut takes place after 54 holes, again to the low 70 scores plus ties.

PGA Tour events are 72-hole tournaments, with 18 holes played per day. So, barring delays due to poor weather, the 36-hole cut takes place following completion of the second round. Since tournaments are scheduled to begin on Thursdays, that means the cut rule is enforced following the end of play on Friday at PGA Tour tournaments.

That further means that the second round ends with (typically) 154 golfers in the field, but the third round begins with only around 70 still playing. The golfers who failed to advance due to the cut rule are said to have "missed the cut;" those that do advance "made the cut."

The first cut—to the 70 golfers with the lowest scores, plus any tied for 70th place—is usually enough that the second cut (following the third round, or 54 holes) isn't required. The third-round cut is used at only a handful of tournaments per year on the PGA Tour. (The second cut is not used on any other tours.)

There are exceptions to this cut rule, however, on the PGA Tour.

The Exceptions to the Standard PGA Tour Cut Rule

As noted, the standard cut rule applies to "regular" PGA Tour tournaments — those events that are not majors, not World Golf Championships tournaments nor other short-field tournaments, which have their own cut rules.

Each of the four major championships of men's golf sets its own cut rule:

  • Masters Cut Rule
  • U.S. Open Cut Rule
  • British Open Cut Rule
  • PGA Championship Cut Rule

The WGC (World Golf Championships) tournaments on the PGA Tour do not have cuts. The CIMB Classic—played in Malaysia with a field of only 78 to start—does not have a cut. Also, the tour's January winners-only tournament (currently named the Sentry Tournament of Champions) and the final two tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule—the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship—do not have cuts. (The Sentry begins with a field of around 30, the BMW with a field of 70 and the Tour Championship with a field of 30, making a cut unnecessary.)

The PGA Tour Cut Rule Was Last Changed in 2016

The standard cut rule in place now on the PGA Tour has been in place since 2016, which is the year the last change was made to the tour's cut policy. However, in 2008, the tour introduced what came to be known as "Rule 78," a rule that proved quite controversial and resulted in a much larger overhaul than the slight modifications the 2016 rule-changes made.

According to Rule 78, if the standard cut rule (top 70 plus ties after 36 holes) resulted in more than 78 golfers making the cut, the cut line was moved up one stroke. For example, say the cut line was +2, but +2 resulted in 80 golfers making the cut. In that case, under Rule 78, the cut line was moved up to +1, and all those golfers at +2 (in this example) weren't allowed to play the weekend (even if that resulted in fewer than 70 golfers making the cut). Maybe only 62 or 66 golfers advanced to the final two rounds.

Rule 78 was so controversial that little more than a month after it was first applied the PGA Tour Policy Board voted to change it, and the result of that change is the PGA Tour cut rule that exists today.