Odds are Tiger Woods won't be affected in the least, but the PGA Tour Policy Board made a few minor changes Monday that stand to benefit golf's little guys.
The first was in response to the uprising over an unpopular new rule that took effect in January. Before this year, the low 70 players and ties made the 36-hole cut at PGA Tour events, often resulting in large weekend fields and slow rounds. This year, it has been the low 70 and ties unless that included more than 78 players. In that case, the nearest number to 70 survived.
Under the new rule announced Tuesday, the field will be cut to the low 70 and ties on Friday, as was the case before '08. But there will then be a Saturday cut, also to the low 70 and ties.
At the Sony Open, the second event of the year, 18 players who tied for 69th made the cut but did not finish and were labeled with a dreaded new abbreviation, "MDF." They included John Daly, U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, and Charles Howell III, whose record at Waialae Country Club is so good he might have made a weekend surge for a top-10 finish. They all got a check for $9,805 (last-place money) and the weekend off.
"It's a stupid rule, I'm sorry," Daly told the Golf Channel at the time.
Others in the group of 18 at the Sony included Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, a rookie who was looking to earn checks, bolster his status and get into more elite tournaments.
The much-maligned new rule made an impact again two weeks later at the Buick Invitational. Nineteen players, including the promising rookie Nick Flanagan and the second-year pro Anthony Kim, finished tied for 67th and were sent home.
Had today's Policy Board change been in place at the Sony, those 18 players who tied for 69th on Friday would have been playing Saturday. But unless they played well, many if not most would not have been around for Sunday. (Players who don't make it to the final round will still earn a check in accordance with their final positions.)
This week's new rule seems to have been made in part for the development of younger players just trying to get a foothold on Tour.
The board also made changes to increase the volatility of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Specifically, points will be reset after the regular season to bunch players more closely. They will be separated at the very top, for example, by only 500 points as opposed to 1,000. Also, playoff finishes will be worth more points to create more movement in the race for the $10 million first prize. A third-place finish in the 2007 FedEx playoffs was worth 3,400 points, but the same finish in this year will net 5,400. Instead of six men with a chance at winning the Cup last year, the new rules would have given 12 a chance.
The changes will also affect the other end of the points list, and the race to crack the smaller and smaller fields as the year comes to an end. Rich Beem started the FedEx playoffs as the 134th seed last year. He finished seventh at The Barclays but only moved up to 113th place in the overall FedEx standings. Under the new system, he would have shot up to 68th and had a better chance to keep playing through the BMW Championship (70-man field) and the Tour Championship (30).
That's good news for the Tour's second-tier players, just as the new Saturday cut rule is good news for rookies. In the end both of the changes are about access, and more of it.