Run you finger down the list of 36-hole scores from a PGA Tour tournament these days and you’ll often get to a new and peculiar abbreviation: MDF.
It stands for “Made the Cut, Did Not Finish.”
Judging from emails and phone messages, even many serious golf fans don’t keep up with each and every rule change on the PGA Tour. But this new rule, which determines who or will not play on the weekend, is important and controversial among many players.
The intent of the cut rule is to reduce the size of the fields on the weekends, with a goal of speeding up those excruciating 5½ rounds that sometimes become unfinished rounds and slop over to the next morning.
Tour and TV executives have concluded that fields culled to 70 to 78 make for ideal pairings, fewer long waits on tees and, therefore, better viewing. Not surprisingly, the players have dubbed it “Rule 78.”
Like the previous cut rule, Rule 78 credits players who are among the low 70 scores and ties with making the cut. But, if those low 70 scores and ties make for more than 78 players – it happens about 11 times a year, says the Tour -- then the closest number of players to 70 actually advance to the weekend.
At the Sony Open in Honolulu four weeks ago, where the rule first went into effect, 86 golfers made the cut at low 70s and ties. That meant 18 players fell victim to Rule 78, as the field was trimmed to the closest number to 70, in this case the 68 players who finished two rounds at 1-under par.
Those 18 guys got credit for making the cut, they got last place but official money ($9,805), they got 46 FedEx Cup points -- and they got shown the door.
Among the 18 sent packing were Brandt Snedeker, last year’s rookie of the year on the Tour, and John Daly.
“It was all news to me,” Snedeker said of the new policy.
Daly, who has no status on the Tour this year, was not so diplomatic. “I think it’s crazy,” Daly fumed to the Golf Channel. “It’s a stupid rule, I’m sorry.”
Stupid or not, if players were caught unaware, they have nobody to blame but themselves. In the wake of the complaints at the Sony, the Tour said, in so many words, to its members: Hello, do you people read your emails on those Tour-issued laptops we gave you? Did you not read any of the four notifications of the change?
Well, no, many of them apparently don’t. They have people for that – agent, managers, handlers, wives, sycophants.
Already there is talk that Rule 78 is so unpopular among some players that it will get repealed after only one year. In the meantime, the best advice from a lot of players are hearing is to basically stop bellyaching and player better.
“Some of the top 10 players like the rule,” Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the Tour, told USA Today. “Some of the players who live on the cut line do not.”
Who could blame the top players for liking the rule. On the weekends, they are the guys with the late tee times, slogging along behind the slow-poke, check-cashers who sweat the cut line.
Another thing is, the Rule 78 was not exactly shoved down the throats of the Tour members. The idea found enough support among the Player Advisory Council, comprised of 16 Tour players, that it went up the chain to the Tour’s nine-member Policy Board, comprised of Commissioner Tim Finchem, four outside directors and four Tour players (currently Brad Faxon, Stewart Cink, David Toms and Joe Ogilvy).
There, the cut policy was unanimous approved.