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Making it to the weekend

PGA Championship 2021: How they determine the 36-hole cut at Kiawah

May 21, 2021

Gary Kellner

It won’t take too many tee shots to be struck on Friday at the 103rd PGA Championship (or balls being hit into sandy areas) before one of the overriding themes of the second round at the Ocean Course will start to surface: What will be the 36-hole cutline be and which big-name players might not make it to the weekend?

Of course, it’s an understandable storyline. While there were plenty of intriguing names near the top of the leader board after the first round Thursday—Corey Conners leading the way with a five-under 67—there were also many who will need a solid Friday effort to be sure they’re playing on the weekend in South Carolina. Had the cut come after Day 1 at Kiawah, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia would have been some of the marquee golfers who’d be going home.

After 18 holes, was projecting the cutline to come at four over par, and later in the day it crept to five over. But exactly how is the cutline determined? Here is the PGA Championship’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 Conners 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.

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 TPC Harding Park, the PGA Championship cut line fell at one-over 141 with 79 players advancing to the weekend. In 2019 at Bethpage Black, it was four-over 144 with 82 players advancing, and in 2018 at Bellerive, it was even-par 140 with 80 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:
Tom Watson, 25 of 33
Phil Mickelson, 25 of 28
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

One of the bigger questions at the PGA is also whether any of the 20 club professionals competing will make the cut. Prior to 2019, only three club pros had made the weekend in the championship since 2011 (Brian Gaffney in 2015, Omar Uresti in 2017 and Ben Kern in 2018). However, at Bethpage, three club pros made the cut: Rob Labritz (T-60), Ryan Vermeer (T-80) and Marty Jertson (82nd). No pros made the cut at Harding Park in 2020.