Here are the facts about the PGA Tour's brand new "MDF Rule": If the top 70 players and ties through 36 holes includes more than 78 players, the remaining field will be cut down to the closest number to 70. At the Sony Open, 87 competitors made the cut at even-par 140 or better, but the final 18 on the cut line were not allowed to continue playing over the weekend.
And some more facts: This is already a rule for 2008, which means that if, say, Tiger Woods has a few MDFs early in the year, the tour cannot simply overturn the rule prior to next season. And this is in effect for PGA Tour-sanctioned events only; majors will not be affected.
But is this rule beneficial to the tour, the players and the fans? Our experts state their opinions in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.
Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT.Many might not like the new rule, but it is better than a hard cut to a smaller number, such as 65 or even 60 and ties.
Perhaps it seems silly to have a player make a cut and not be allowed to compete, but at least he gets paid, earns pension credits and FedEx Cup points. The tour has issues with pace of play and when weekend fields swell to more than 80 players, and this helps alleviate those concerns. There are also television concerns, which make a smaller weekend field more manageable.
True, there are instances in which players have made the cut on the number and gone on to win the tournament. But in the past 12 years, out of more than 500 players who would have fallen into the "MDF'' category had the rule been in place, only one placed in the top five and none went on to win.
So the new rule is going to cause some confusion and might make it more difficult to determine if you are going to play on the weekend. But it's nothing that a few more birdies on Thursday and Friday would not solve.
Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FICTION.I understand the reasoning behind the rule, I really do. PGA Tour brass doesn't want to send players out in threesomes during weekend rounds, but they also don't want clogged fields resulting in finishes that outlast TV coverage or, worse yet, outlast the Sunday sunlight. But there has to be a better solution -- such as, well, simply starting the tee times earlier each day.
Here is the biggest reason the rule doesn't work: It limits opportunities for greatness. Chris Couch (2006 Zurich Classic), Brad Faxon (2005 Buick Championship) and Jose Maria Olazabal each won events in recent years after making the cut on the number. If there had been enough players grouped with them after 36 holes, under the new system, the "W" next to their names would have been replaced by "MDF." Or you can look at it this way: At this past week's Sony Open, John Daly was one of 18 players who was 11 shots behind leader K.J. Choi at the halfway point and wasn't allowed to continue under the new rule. Sure, it's a long shot, but JD could have pulled a similar feat. Instead, fans were robbed of that possibility.
I keep coming back to the same argument that I made during last year's FedEx Cup playoffs, when many pundits were criticizing the tour for including large fields at the first two events. When was the last time anyone complained about too many players in a tournament?
Until someone can give me a rational answer to that question, I'm with Daly, who bluntly stated, "It's a stupid rule."
Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FACT.Absolutely it is a good idea. Limiting field size on the weekend is important to prevent those annoying Monday finishes. When 100 players make the cut, Sunday becomes a nightmare for everyone -- especially TV, which is the big loser if the tournament is suspended by darkness. Those guys complaining have no case for several reasons, the most important being that their players reps on the Policy Board approved the change. Did they know it was under discussion and did they make their feelings known then? Did they bother to read the rule change when it was approved? I hope the some guys complaining now have done a better job of reading the Drug Testing Manual the tour has circulated, otherwise they could be in for a shock when testing starts in July.
Yes, it is possible for a guy who makes the cut right on the number to go on and win the tournament. But that is a bogus argument. It is also possible for a guy who misses the cut by one stroke to go on and win. So what? This is the rule. If more than 78 players make the cut, the cut number is lowered by a stroke. Anyone not understand that? To those players who do not want to be victimized by this necessary trimming of competitive fat I have six words of advice: Play Better. Play Better. Play Better. For John Daly to say he would have played harder if he had known he might be trimmed from the field despite making the cut right on the number is an insult to the game.
It's a 72-hole tournament (90 this week). Shouldn't everyone be playing hard right to the end? Missed Cut. Did Not Finish. It's a great rule whose time has come.
John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FICTION.Forget for a moment that John Daly and others apparently don't read their memos, their e-mail or listen to their agents. (The tour notified players of the changes to the cut rule with paper flyers and electronic messages and provided player agents with the same information.)
All you need to know is that if the 18 players who were prohibited from playing on the weekend did so, the final two rounds of the tournament would have had players going off in threesomes or on different nines. Is that such a big deal? I can't imagine that even traditionalists would have a problem with this, especially if it's done in order to get the event to finish on Sunday. This isn't the Masters were talking about.
But I'm not concerned about how the rule affected Daly. I am concerned about the fans and viewers who wanted to watch players such as Long John or U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera on the weekend, but were prohibited from doing so because of the rule change. The Sony Open is one of several tournaments that doesn't draw many stars to begin with. To eliminate two of the bigger ones because of a technicality can't be good for business.
Fast forward two weeks. Imagine the outcry if Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson make the cut on the number at the Buick Invitational but are among 18 players eliminated from playing the weekend. The ticket holders, television viewers, and most importantly, the tournament sponsors won't be pleased.