How the Cut Rule Works at the British Open Golf Tournament

How many golfers make the cut, plus the Open Championship cut history

Claret Jug Open Championship logo
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The current British Open cut rule is straightforward:

  • There is one cut after 36 holes of play (following completion of the second round, in other words).
  • Everyone in the Top 70, including ties, after 36 holes makes the cut.
  • Golfers outside of the Top 70 (including ties) do not advance to the third round.

As with all other golf tournaments that use a cut, the Open Championship's cut serves the purpose of reducing the number of golfers in the field by roughly half.

That cut comes at the halfway point of the tournament, it removes many golfers whose higher scores give them little or no chance to compete over the final rounds, and makes the final two rounds more manageable in terms of field size and flow of golfers (and fans) around the golf course. That helps tournament organizers, on-course officials and, not coincidentally, the tournament's television broadcast partners.

(The Open cut is similar to those at the other three majors; compare to the Masters cut rule, U.S. Open cut rule and PGA Championship cut rule.)

What does it mean when we say that "70 golfers plus ties" make the cut? Imagine going down the list of scores until you reach 68th place. And there are five golfers tied for 68th. That's 73 golfers, three more than the limit of 70. But because they are all tied for 68th place, they all make the cut.

The cut rule used by the Open - the field being cut once - is called a single cut.

But the British Open used to have a double cut.

The Double Cut Years at the British Open

From 1968 through 1985, the Open used a double cut; that is, there were two cuts rather than one. The first cut was after 36 holes and typically the field was cut to Top 80 plus ties at that point. The second (or secondary) cut came after 54 holes, typically cutting the field to Top 60 plus ties.

Those remaining then played the final round.

The second cut had some famous victims over the years it was in use. Perhaps the most surprising golfer caught by the double cut was Tom Watson at the 1976 British Open. Watson won the Open in 1975 and 1977 (plus three more times), but in 1976 he made the first cut before shooting a third-round 80 to miss the second cut.

Some other famous victims of the second cut at the Open in those years include Gary Player in 1970, Kel Nagle in 1974, Peter Thomson in 1975, Greg Norman in 1977 and 1980, Ian Woosnam in 1982 and 1984, Sandy Lyle in 1983, and Payne Stewart in 1984.

The British Open Cut Rule Through the Years

  • The tournament first introduced a cut in 1898. It was a single cut after 36 holes. Prior to that, fields had not been large enough to worry about a cut. Plus tournaments in those early decades of the Open tended to have many withdrawals, naturally whittling down the field without need of a cut.
  • The cut rule -- how many golfers made the cut -- varied quite a bit after the cut's introduction due to wide variances in the number of entries. There were even many years post-1898 in which no cut was made because the field size was small to begin with.
  • From 1926 forward, however, a cut was employed at every Open played.
  • That was a single cut through 1967. As noted already, from 1968 through 1985 there was a double cut.
  • The cut rule reverted to a single cut in 1986 and has remained a single cut ever since, Top 70 plus ties.