What Is the PGA Tour Cut Rule?

Explaining how many golfers make the cut on the PGA Tour

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Regular tournaments held as part of the Professional Golfer's Association (PGA) Tour follow what is known as the standard cut rule when determining who moves on to play more holes after the first 36, then again after the first 54 holes.

As of the 2016 to 2017 season, regular tournaments' first cuts keep the 70 (or more) players with the lowest scores (plus all ties), but if that results in more than 78 golfers making the cut, a second cut takes place after 54 holes, again to the low 70 scores plus ties; however, if players do get cut during the second round, they are considered "made the cut, didn't finish" (MDF) and have the potential to earn money for making it that far.

There are exceptions to this rule, even on the PGA Tour. In tournaments with fewer than 78 players, there often isn't a cut at all and all players continue through the end of the course. 

The Exceptions to the Standard 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.

Another notable exception is that each of the four majors has its own cut rule:

Other "irregular" events include the WGC tournament, the CIMB Classic — played in Malaysia with a field of 78— which are both no-cut events. Also, the tour's January winners-only tournament (currently named the Hyundai 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 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 — that's 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 — then, 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 that exists today.