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Making it to the weekend

PGA Championship 2024: How they determine the 36-hole cut at Valhalla

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A view of the Wanamaker trophy at Valhalla Golf Club ahead of the 2024 PGA Championship.

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 mindset that has a non-successful outcome attached to it.

Of course, the reality for any player in the field at the 2024 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 Valhalla Golf Club on this Friday. With the forecast calling for a 65 percent chance of rain and possible thunderstorms as well, 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.

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 Xander Schauffele, who finished at nine-under 62, 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 5 p.m. local time, Datagolf.com was projecting a 91.9 percent chance the cutline comes at one-under 141.

Among those who will be looking closely at the cutline is Tiger Woods. The four-time PGA winner and 15-time major champion bogeyed his last two holes on Thursday to shoot a one-over 72 in his opening round. Woods is playing in his 23 PGA Championship, having missed the cut just four times.

Whether the second round is finished on Friday and they actually make a cut at day's end is another question. Tee Times were delayed by 1 hour and 20 minutes after a fatal traffic accident took place outside Valhalla Golf Club on Friday morning. If play then is delayed at all by weather, it's highly unlikely Round 2 will be done before nightfall.

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 Oak Hill, the PGA Championship cut line fell at five-over 145 with 76 players advancing to the weekend. In 2022 at Southern Hills, five-over 144 was the number with 79 players getting to the weekend. In 2021 at Kiawah Island, 81 players shot five-over 149 or better to play all four rounds, 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, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson have made the most cuts—27—of any players in PGA Championship history. Floyd made 27 in 31 PGA starts, Nicklaus in 37 appearances and Mickelson in 30.

Here’s the next best players in PGA history:
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, the 52-year-old playing this week with the chance to move past Floyd and Nicklaus. However, he’ll have to step things up on Friday afternoon as he started the second round at three over and played his front nine in only even par.

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). And three years ago at Kiawah, there were two who played on the weekend: Ben Cook (T-44) and Brad Marek (78).

And of course last year Michael Block not only made the cut but played great on the weekend, finishing with a one-over 281 total that left him tied for 15th—and qualifying him for this year’s PGA at Valhalla.

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