SAN DIEGO (AP) — The PGA Tour debated for several years whether to reduce the number of players on the weekend. Less than a month into the new policy that has caused such consternation, it’s about to be reviewed.
The new policy, approved by the board in November, allows for the top 70 and ties to make the cut, the way it has been since 1969. But if that results in more than 78 players, then the closest number to 60 advance to the weekend, and the rest go home with last-place money.
Eighteen players were lopped off at the Sony Open. Two weeks later at the Buick Invitational, 19 players got tagged with “MDF,” which is becoming a dirty little acronym that is short for “Made the cut, did not finish.”
That’s 37 players in two weeks, although no one has been MDF twice.
Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has heard enough complaints that he said the U.S. Player Advisory Council will meet at the Northern Trust Open next month to give it a closer look.
“The players I’ve heard from are generally upset with any reduction of guys playing on the weekend,” Finchem said. “On the other hand, a lot of guys don’t like it, but would be in favor of something else.”
When the PAC met last autumn, it discussed top 65 or top 60 and ties, or perhaps a Saturday cut for the top 70 and ties. Even if 85 players made the cut on Friday, that number likely would be reduced going into the final round.
In both tournaments this year, someone who made the “playing cut” on the number wound up in the top 10. Parker McLachlin tied for 10th at the Sony Open, and Justin Leonard was fifth at Torrey Pines.
Finchem said it was possible to amend the policy, but he offered no predictions.
“What I said to the PAC was there’s a lot of interest in this, we ought to have a thorough discussion the week of L.A. and made sure we’re looking at all possible alternatives,” Finchem said. “I wouldn’t predict we would change anything.”
PAR FOR THE COURSE: The U.S. Golf Association always says it’s not trying to protect par, so it’s peculiar why it keeps reducing par for the U.S. Open to lower than what the course normally plays, even when that course already hosts the best players.
Pebble Beach went to a par 71 in 2000. Torrey Pines will be a par 71 in June, and it could have been worse. There was consideration to make No. 18 a par 4 until officials decided to leave it as it was.
But why does No. 6 on the South Course have to be a par 4 for the U.S. Open?
The sixth hole played as a par 5 at 560 yards last week, and it’s worth noting that Woods never reached the green in two in any of his three rounds on the South Course. He didn’t even make a birdie at No. 6 until the final round.
The hole will be just over 500 yards as a par 4 in the U.S. Open.
“The USGA just thrives on that,” Woods said. “Par is just a number. What I mean by that is that Pebble could set up for a 72, and I would have been what, 16-under par? So under par doesn’t really matter that much. It’s just going out there and shooting a number.”
More than anything, it’s a head game.
“When you have four par 5s in a U.S. Open, you always feel a little bit more comfortable because you’re going to have some more birdie opportunities,” he said. “When you get to par 70s and 71s, those opportunities are taken away.”
PAC CAMPAIGN: Looking for an election without any dirty politics or cheap promises? The best golf has to offer is the campaign to be the next chairman of the U.S. Player Advisory Council, with promotion to the full policy board in two years.
The candidates are Rich Beem, Brett Quigley and Zach Johnson, and voting takes place through Friday at Riviera.
“I was just frustrated with the process,” Quigley said about being one of the candidates for chairman. “I think we need some guys who have a different perspective on some of the issues.”
All three of them paid their dues to reach the U.S. PGA Tour, spending time on various mini-tours.
“I think you have three guys who care about the PGA Tour and have played everywhere,” Quigley said.
STEPPING UP: The U.S. PGA Tour event in Los Angeles has a new title sponsor that is serious about upgrades.
Northern Trust signed on as the new title sponsor at Riviera late last year, and already it has raised the purse by $1 million (680,000) to $6.2 million (4.2 million), made courtesy cars available to all players (up from half the field) and eliminated one of the amateurs from the pro-am, a top perk among players because it speeds up the round.
The tournament also is offering free parking for fans at the VA Hospital (fans used to pay $5, 3.50 for a shuttle bus), and will offer handheld leaderboards to the first 400 fans each day.
It also will stage a celebrity event open to the public on Feb. 10, the Sunday before the tournament, called “The Michael Douglas and Friends Celebrity Golf.” And it expects to raise $2.5 million (1.7 million) for local charities, up 30 percent from last year.
That doesn’t guarantee getting the No. 1 player in the world.
Tiger Woods, who first played on the U.S. PGA Tour at Riviera as a 16-year-old, has not said whether he plans to play, although it is unlikely. Even so, it represents a strong push by a title sponsor to upgrade a tournament that for years relied mainly on being held at Riviera.
DIVOTS: A fifth-place finish by Justin Leonard at Torrey Pines moved him up to No. 51 in the world, all but clinching a spot in the Accenture Match Play Championship. Leonard started the year at No. 89 and has not finished out of the top 10. … Rory Sabbatini has finished in the top 10 in six of his past seven starts on the U.S. PGA Tour. The exception came at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, where he was 17th in a 31-man field.
STAT: Tiger Woods’ 62 career U.S. PGA Tour victories is one fewer than Phil Mickelson (32) and Vijay Singh (31) combined.