In November 2007, the Tour Policy Board of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America adopted a new rule to control the size of the field in the final 36 holes of PGA Tour events. This new rule made it possible for players to make the cut but not be allowed to complete the tournament. The abbreviation “MDF” stands for “Made cut, didn’t finish.” The rule took effect for the first time at the 2008 Sony Open in Hawaii. As of 2007, any PGA Tour event could implement the rule.
The Field and the Cut
According to ESPN Golf, most PGA Tour events have a starting field of 132, 144 or 156 players. After the first two rounds, the field gets reduced or "cut" to include only the players with the lowest scores. Traditionally, this cut included all players in the top 70 places.
Determining the Cut
Before the MDF rule, the 70 players with the lowest scores would make the cut and get to continue in the tournament. Any players tied for 70th place would also make the cut. Thus, more than 70 players could make the cut. According to the PGA Tour’s new cut rule, if more than 78 players make the cut, then the field can be further reduced to include only players with the next lowest score to 70th place. The event must determine the cutoff score that would bring the size of the field closest to 70 players. In some rare cases, this cutoff score would allow more than 78 players. In most cases, fewer than 70 players will be allowed to continue.
Players who make the cut but are not allowed to continue in the tournament still receive prize money and credit for making the cut.
Advantages to the Rule
The MDF rule ensures the field will not remain too large during the last 36 holes of a tournament. According to the PGA Tour, 136 cuts in the 12 years leading to the rule change included more than 78 players. The PGA Tour also points out that players who would have been affected by the MDF rule rarely advanced to a top 10 position by the end of the tournament.
Problems with the Rule
Players who make the cut but are not allowed to finish the tournament do not get a chance to improve their position or earn more prize money. Though advances from positions in 60th or 70th place to a position in the top 10 are rare, they do sometimes occur. The PGA Tour cites Anthony Kim’s advancement from 64th place to third place in the 2007 Zurich Classic. If the MDF rule had been in effect, he would not have been allowed to finish the tournament.