Making it to the weekend

PGA Championship 2023: How they determine the 36-hole cut at Oak Hill

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A view of the Wanamaker Trophy on the 13th hole at Oak Hill Country Club.

Gary Kellner

There’s a mindset that sports psychologists discuss with their golfers that says if you’re thinking about making the cut when you start a golf tournament, then you’re not really thinking about something that will have you playing your best. Rather, you’re limiting yourself with a semi-negative thought that has a non-successful outcome attached to it.

Of course, the reality for any player in the field at this week’s 105th PGA Championship is that in order to win the tournament you have to, well, first make the cut. The goal, of course, is to make it without having to worry about making it, posting two good early scores that doesn’t have you looking on your phone to see where you are in relation to those around 70th place.

Indeed, white-knuckle Fridays are no fun for pro golfers, and the same will hold true at Oak Hill Country Club on this Friday. With the forecast calling for the winds to pick up over the day, potentially blowing at 25 to 30 miles an hour in the afternoon, scores that seemed reasonable during the opening round are likely to go higher. And the cutline is likely to get a little volatile as the day wears on.

The tour pro most surprisingly nervous about making the cut on Friday has to be Jon Rahm. The reigning Masters champion and World No. 1 shot a six-over 76 on Thursday, which tied his highest score ever in the PGA Championship. He ended the first round tied for 114th, and is danger of seeing his made-cut streak in majors snapped at 16 straight, which is the longest streak among active players.

Also shooting 76s on Thursday and putting themselves in a tough spot were Jason Day and Matt Fitzpatrick.

How exactly do they determine the cutline at the PGA Championship. According to the tournament’s official guidelines:

“Following the first 36 holes of play, the field of 156 players will be reduced to the low 70 scores and ties. Those players will advance to complete the final two rounds.”

In other words, the cutline won’t be influenced by the play of first-round leader Bryson DeChambeau, who finished at four-under 66, or anyone else at the top of the leader board. The PGA of America does not use a 10-stroke rule to help determine who will be playing all 72 holes.

As of 4 p.m. local time, Datagolf.com was projecting a 55.4 percent chance the cutline comes at five over, with a 44.6 percent chance its six over. Given the forecast, don’t be surprised if these numbers steer to the higher score by day’s end.

The PGA of America’s “cut rule” is the same used at the Open Championship. The U.S. Open makes a cut at the low 60 players and ties. The Masters has a cut at the low 50 players and ties, bumping that number up and eliminating its 10-stroke rule in 2020.

A year ago at Southern Hills, the PGA Championship cut line fell at five-over 144 with 79 players advancing to the weekend. In 2021 at Kiawah Island, it was five-over 149 with 81 players getting to the weekend, In 2020 at TPC Harding Park, it was one-over 141 with 79 players advancing, and in 2019 at Bethpage Black, it was four-over 144 with 82 players advancing.

The PGA Championship instituted a cut when the tournament changed from a match-play to stroke-play format in 1958. Originally, however, the championship had a double cut, one after 36 holes and a second cut after 65 holes. The championship reverted back to a single 36-hole cut in 1965 and has had it ever since.

For history buffs, Raymond Floyd and Jack Nicklaus have made the most cuts—27—of any players in PGA Championship history. Floyd made 27 in 31 PGA starts while Nicklaus made 27 in 37 appearances.

Here’s the next best players in PGA history:
Phil Mickelson, 26 of 29
Tom Watson, 25 of 33
Hale Irwin, 24 of 26
Arnold Palmer, 24 of 37
Jay Haas, 23 of 28
Tom Kite, 23 of 28
Gary Player, 21 of 23

You see Phil Mickelson there. He finsihed his second round at five over for the tournament, so right on the projected cutline, as he tries to match Floyd and Nicklaus for the all time cuts made mark. This will also be the 100th major championship in which he's made the cut, another impressive career feat for Lefty.

One of the bigger questions at the PGA is also whether any of the 20 club professionals competing will make the cut. Prior to the championship being played at Bethpage in 2019, only three club pros had made the weekend since 2011 (Brian Gaffney in 2015, Omar Uresti in 2017 and Ben Kern in 2018). But on Long Island, three club pros made the cut: Rob Labritz (T-60), Ryan Vermeer (T-80) and Marty Jertson (82nd). And two years ago at Kiawah, there were two who played on the weekend: Ben Cook (T-44) and Brad Marek (78).

This year, at least one club professional is assured to get to the weekend, Michael Block finishing off a second-straight 70. As the afternoon wave plays, the 46-year-old from Mission Viejo, Calif., is tied for 12th place and will be the first club professional to be inside the top 20 through 36 holes at the PGA since 2009. This is the first time he's played in the PGA Championship but the first time he'll be playing on the weekend.

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