Going the Distance
September 17, 2020

U.S. Open 2020: How the 36-hole cut is determined at the U.S. Open

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Drew Hallowell

The tournament within a tournament at the U.S. Open comes into full focus on Friday at Winged Foot Golf Club. Of course, players will be jockeying for position atop the leader board in hopes of eventually winning the championship come Sunday. But many others will be trying to just make sure they’re here for the weekend by making the tournament’s 36-hole cut.

Unlike the PGA Championship and the Open Championship, which allows the low 70 players and ties to play all four rounds, the USGA has a slightly higher bar for its “cut rule,” taking only the low 60 and ties. And unlike the Masters, there is no 10-stroke rule to help determine the U.S. Open cut (the USGA did away with it in 2011).

With first-round scoring being lower than many expected—21 players were under par—the projected cutline from datagolf.net at the start of Day 2 was three-over-par 143. But Friday's second round has seen scores balloon, with the cutline now hovering around five over.

If you think just making the cut doesn’t mean much in determining the ultimate winner, consider what happened two years ago at Shinnecock Hills. Tony Finau and Daniel Berger had made the 36-hole cut with one stroke to spare, but were 11 strokes off the lead when they teed off on Saturday morning in the third round. They each posted four-under 66s, and when the winds picked up in the afternoon—along with the scores—Finau and Berger found themselves tied for the lead after 54 holes. Finau would eventually finish fifth and Berger would come in tied for sixth, each securing spots into this year’s championship with their weekend play. So yeah, even just making the cut is a big deal. (Oh, and they’re playing for $12.5 million in prize money, so getting to the weekend, even on the number, can be financially very lucrative, too.)

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One of the bigger questions at the U.S. Open is also whether any of the 13 amateurs competing will make the cut. An amateur has made the cut every year since 2007, and six of this year’s participants were among the top 60 after Day 1 at Winged Foot, suggesting that somebody will earn the low-amateur medal come Sunday.

Here's what the cutline has been for the last 10 U.S. Opens:

2019: 144 (+2), Pebble Beach
2018: 148 (+8), Shinnecock Hills
2017: 145 (+1), Erin Hills
2016: 146 (+6), Oakmont
2015: 145 (+5), Chambers Bay
2014: 145 (+5), Pinehurst No. 2
2013: 148 (+8), Merion
2012: 148 (+8), Olympic Club
2011: 146 (+4), Congressional
2010: 149 (+7), Pebble Beach

And at other U.S. Opens at Winged Foot:
2006: 149 (+9)
1984: 147 (+7)
1974: 153 (+13)
1959: 150 (+10)
1929: 159 (+15)

For history buffs, here are some stats related to the cut at the U.S. Open:

Highest 36-Hole Cut (Since World War II):
155 (15 over), The Olympic Club (Lake Course), San Francisco, Calif., 1955
154 (14 over), Southern Hills C.C., Tulsa, Okla., 1958
154 (10 over), Pebble Beach (Calif.) G.L., 1972

Lowest 36-Hole Cut
143 (+3), Olympia Fields (Ill.) C.C. (North Course), 2003
144 (+2), Pebble Beach (Calif.) G.L., 2019
144 (+4), Baltusrol G.C. (Lower Course), Springfield, N.J., 1993
144 (+4), Bethpage State Park (Black Course), Farmingdale, N.Y., 2009
145 (+1), Medinah (Ill.) C.C. (No. 3 Course), 1990
145 (+1), Erin Hills, Erin, Wis., 2017
145 (+5), Oakland Hills C.C. (South Course), Birmingham, Mich., 1985
145 (+5), Oak Hill C.C. (East Course), Rochester, N.Y., 1989
145 (+5), Shinnecock Hills G.C., Southampton, N.Y., 2004
145 (+5), Pinehurst R. & C.C. (No. 2), Village of Pinehurst, N.C., 2014
145 (+5), Chambers Bay, University Place, Wash., 2015

Most Players to Make Cut
108, Oakland Hills C.C. (South Course), Bloomfield Hills, Mich., 1996
88, Baltusrol G.C. (Lower Course), Springfield, N.J., 1993

Most U.S. Opens Completed, 72 Holes
35, Jack Nicklaus
27, Hale Irwin
27, Sam Snead
26, Raymond Floyd
26, Gene Sarazen
25, Gary Player
25, Phil Mickelson
25, Tom Watson

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