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PGA Tour's new cut policy stirs controversy, but little action

HONOLULU (AP) — Democracy arrived the day after 18 players who made the cut at the Sony Open were sent home.

On the bulletin board in the Waialae Country Club locker room, next to a notice of a mandatory player meeting in two weeks at Torrey Pines in San Diego, someone posted a one-question survey written in pencil.

Do you agree with the U.S. PGA Tour's new cut policy?

The vote was unanimous - 6-0 against the new policy, with 63 abstaining.

That's the problem with independent contractors with a free lunch and millionaire's income. They preach about policies that supposedly are ruining their lives, but when it comes time to do something, they go to the range.

Or maybe they don't think anyone will listen.

``It's always back to the same thing,'' Stephen Ames said. ``Play better.''

Ames didn't sign the sheet last week, although he said he disagrees with the policy. He feels more strongly about how the tour reached this decision, which essentially amounted to about 20 players speaking for 250 without really talking to them at all.

The policy that has raised so many hackles?

Whenever the top 70 and ties includes more than 78 players, the nearest number to 70 make the cut. The others still get credit for making the cut, and they receive official, last-place money and FedEx Cup points. But they don't get to play.

Twelve times last year - and that's about average for the last decade - the top 70 and ties to make the cut led to a weekend field almost the size of some tournaments. That meant a two-tee start with three players to a group, 5 1/2-hour rounds, as many as three groups waiting on tees, and some players grumbling why it takes so long.

The highest number of players to make the cut last year was 89 at Disney in November, and perhaps it's no coincidence the policy board approved the new cut policy about a week later.

Among the 18 players it affected at the Sony Open was John Daly, who was playing on a sponsor's exemption and was outraged. It seems he met a family from Australia on Wednesday that had saved up money to come to Hawaii and watch him play, but they couldn't make it to the tournament until Saturday.

``I make the cut, and now they're not going to be able to watch me play,'' Daly told Golf Channel.

Even if you believe that story, anyone claiming to be a Daly fan knows better than to wait until Saturday to watch him play. Sometimes it's not safe to wait until Friday. Daly withdrew six times last year; Jack Nicklaus withdrew seven times in a career spanning four decades.

The outrage is that a guy with a history of quitting is the first to complain about not getting to play.

But forget Daly for a minute.

What happens when a guy who actually sells tickets is sent home under this rule?

``I'd like to see if, by chance, Mr. Woods happened to be in that mix, and he has to go home, how the sponsors would feel,'' Ames said. ``The No. 1 player, the star of the PGA Tour, and he has to go home?''

The six who signed their names against the policy were Jerry Kelly, Paul Azinger, Carl Pettersson, Jay Williamson, Daniel Chopra and Patrick Sheehan. If you notice that none is among the top 50 in the world, consider that Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh also were outspoken against it.

``I don't like the rule,'' Stricker said. ``It just seems like it doesn't benefit any of the players. It seems like our tour is about giving opportunity, and here's one they're taking away.''

And players were worried about the point structure in the FedEx Cup?

This is a far more meaningful - and divisive - issue.

The classic case study is Jose Maria Olazabal in 2002 at Torrey Pines, where he made the cut on the number and wound up winning when the cut was 85 players.

Twice last year when the cut was more than 78 players, those who made it on the number wound up in the top 10 - Anthony Kim tied for third in New Orleans, Bo Van Pelt tied for sixth in Hartford. That's worth not only money, but FedEx Cup points. And with the Ryder Cup points based on dollars this year, it takes on greater significance.

But in this televised era of golf - and remember, that's where the $280 million (188 million) in prize money comes from - who wants to see 5 1/2-hour rounds and the final group having to wait 30 minutes on a tee late in the round, which recently happened in Las Vegas?

Both sides have merit. The broader issue is how these decisions are made.

The 16-member Player Advisory Council was roughly 75 percent in favor of the cut policy, so it went to the nine-member policy board. On matters related to competition, any change requires a majority of the four players on the board.

The cut policy was a unanimous decision.

Ames' excellent suggestion was to take a vote of the full membership, much the same way everyone votes on player of the year and other awards. Would it have been so difficult to give them a list of options and let the majority rule?

Or they could simply get more involved, which is what Kelly intends to do.

Each year, Kelly takes his name off the PAC ballot because he doesn't think anyone will listen. He forgot to do that this year, and lo and behold, he was elected. And he is determined to make a difference.

``There's a heck of a lot of guys who need a voice,'' Kelly said. ``I didn't think a voice could be heard. We'll find out.''

Kelly is certain the cut policy will be a big topic next week at the mandatory meeting, which was scheduled to discuss the anti-doping policy. Then again, at the last mandatory players' meeting in May, half the guys didn't even show up.

And most left early.

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