For many golfers, Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour record of 142 consecutive cuts made is an iconic feat. Think about it: Between 1998 and 2005, Woods made the cut in 142 straight events he entered, breaking the previous record of 113 cuts by Byron Nelson. In a game that can be so fickle with bad and unlucky bounces, with sudden changes of weather, making that many cuts is simply mind-boggling. It should be noted that during Woods’ streak, 31 of those 142 tournaments were “no cut” events like the World Golf Championships (WGC.)
I also think the common fan relishes the competitive spirit of tournaments with 36-hole cuts, how players must perform well to not only play on the weekend but also to cash a check. Unlike team sports with their guaranteed salaries, the PGA Tour has been synonymous with a certain rugged individualism and meritocracy. Play well and you’re rewarded; play poorly, you go home with empty pockets.
The matter of lucrative no-cut tournaments has been a factor in the perception of the LIV Tour and its contentious battle with the PGA Tour. The LIV Tour proudly features 54-hole tournaments with no cuts in all of its schedule. On the PGA Tour in the recent past, no cut tournaments have been limited to the WGC events, the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and the year-ending FedEx tournaments, roughly seven or eight tournaments.
Last week it was reported by Golfweek the PGA Tour is going to add a layer of elite, big purse, no-cut tournaments to its schedule next year. In all, these designated eight tournaments will have smaller fields (70-78 players) and no cuts, with the promise of a guaranteed pay day.
No doubt, such a move helps to placate sponsor and television executives who want the strongest fields, and on the weekend, to justify their investments
Immediately, there was an outcry from certain circles that the PGA Tour was mirroring the LIV Tour. Several LIV players said the news meant “imitation is the best form of flattery.” It seemed to many that the PGA Tour was catering to its star players and incentivizing them not to jump to the rival tour.
What hasn’t been talked much about is how this new schedule could possibly strengthen the rest of the Tour’s calendar, which will largely maintain the rigors of the 36-hole cut. In fact, there will be 23 tournaments next year with such cuts and 29 full field events. Those are sizable numbers. That’s a big difference compared to the LIV Tour.
Although stars like McIIroy, Rahm, Scheffler, Thomas, Spieth, et al may opt out of some of these events, many will still attract a strong field. Also, these events will still award FedEx points, have bigger purses and allow winners a path to entering those designated elite tournaments.
That’s the take of Peter Malnati, a player director on the PGA Tour’s policy board and admittedly not an elite, must-see competitor who helps drive attendance and TV ratings. Initially, Malnati was opposed to the addition of these no-cut, designated events. But after hearing the reasoning behind the plan, he came around to the conclusion it was in the best interest of players and the Tour.
In a journal which he shared with Golfweek, Malnati wrote: “Small fields in the designated events bolster the full-field events. Because every member aspires to be in the designated events, but only 70-80 will be, that leaves a larger pool of members hungry to play in the full-field events. This is really the kicker for me. Smaller fields in the designated events will allow every single event on the PGA Tour schedule to thrive and grow…”
So although there will be more no cut tournaments next year, the vast majority will still feature the drama of players sweating out the cut on Friday. Most importantly, the majors and the Players Championship will have a cut.
With the threat of LIV Golf, the Tour had to evolve and respond. It had to find a way to retain its star players while not alienating its rank and file members.
This latest plan seems to be in the right direction for both sets of players.
Images courtesy of the PGA Tour and Peter Malnati