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The Masters Cut Rule: What It Is and Who Moves On

Aug 15
9 minutes

The Masters — it truly is a tradition unlike any other. From the first drive to the almost ubiquitous, perennial, dramatic conclusion or playoff matchup, every first week of April brings a mix of emotion and talent that few other sporting events can match. And while being talented enough to make this golf tournament is a feat all its own, staying around through the weekend is even more difficult. That’s why every golf fan and golf enthusiast needs to know about The Masters cut rule. Discover more about who gets cut, who makes the final rounds, and how going into the weekend with dreams of a green jacket has changed.

What Is The Masters Cut Rule?

Golfer warming up during the 2018 Masters.

Adopted in 2020, the current Masters cut rule allows the lowest 50 golfers and anyone tied at the bottom of that list to play the final 36 holes — this is known simply as the 36-hole cut. But with the fewest number of invited golfers of any tournament — between 90 and 100 invitees — the cut is one of the toughest to make, especially because there’s no arbitrary cutoff point.

Like any other tournament, the idea behind The Masters cut rule makes perfect sense. By eliminating the players that don’t have a shot at winning the tournament, organizers can avoid slowdowns on the course from poorly performing players and cut down on round times for the sake of golfers and television contracts. It’s that simple.

So What Makes The Masters Special? Don’t All PGA Tour Events Have a Cut Rule?

Sergio Garcia making the cut at the 2015 Masters.

With the exception of a handful of PGA Championship tournaments — which we’ll get into later — you’re correct. All PGA tournaments have a cut rule. The major differences between The Masters and other PGA events are the number of participants and how many people make the cut.

The Masters field has the fewest number of golfers in comparison to any other major championship, as well as having the most competitive cut rule. In contrast, most PGA tour events — not counting majors — have 132, 144, or 156 golfers with a cut rule that allows the top 65 lowest golfers and ties to advance. Though more golfers are cut from these other tournaments, or at least in theory, The Masters remains the most competitive tournament with the most arduous cut rules, i.e. sticking around through the weekend at Augusta National Golf Club is insanely difficult.

But back real quickly to the tournaments that have no cut rule. Most of these are either match play or reward-based based tournaments, the latter of which invites players that have already won a PGA-sanctioned event in the past calendar year. In reward-based events, the number of participants is much lower, so the cut is unnecessary.

In case you were wondering, here are the PGA events with no cut rule:

  • Tournament of Champions
  • World Golf Championship (WGC) Mexico Championship
  • WGC HSBC Championship
  • Zozo Championship
  • CJ Cup at Nine Bridges
  • Tour Championship
  • BMW Championship
  • WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic
  • Ryder Cup
  • WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play — this is the only match play event on the PGA tour and features the top 64 ranked golfers on the tour

A Brief History of The Masters Cut Rule

The leaderboard at The Masters

The current Masters cut rule of the lowest 50 golfers and ties has only been in effect since 2020. Prior to that, the tournament had five different cut rules, which have changed the outlook of the tournament itself, allowing golfers to remain in the tournament for the weekend. While no golfer who’s scraped by the cut has ever won The Masters — especially now that it’s more competitive than ever.

Here’s a brief history of The Masters and its cut rule over time:

  • 1934 to 1956: Originally called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament until 1939, The Masters got its name in 1940. Until 1957, the tournament had no cut rule and invited between 72 and 78 golfers to participate.
  • 1957 to 1961: In 1957, The Masters saw a dramatic increase in popularity and the number of invitees — officially 101 golfers participated. In an effort to keep the competition high, The Masters cut rule dropped to the lowest 40 golfers and ties after 36 holes. With this cut rule, The Masters from 1957 to 1961 was officially the most difficult in terms of making the cut of any Masters in history.
  • 1962 to 1965: During this four-year stretch, Masters organizers changed the cut to the top 44 players and anyone who tied the last-placed golfer.
  • 1966 to 2012: The longest Masters cut rule occurred during this era, adding golfers within 10 strokes of the leader along with the 44 lowest golfers and ties.
  • 2013 to 2019: In the penultimate change to the Masters cut line, the 10-stroke rule remained for those within 10 shots of the lead, but the cut also expanded to the top 50 players, including ties.
  • 2020 to present: As mentioned above, the top 50 players and ties still make the weekend field, but the 10-shot rule is now null and void.

How Many Golfers Are Usually Cut From The Masters?

Hole at Augusta during a practice round at The Masters.

The number of golfers cut from The Masters Tournament has inevitably varied due to the changes in The Masters cut rules. However, this is more than a numbers game. How certain golfers are playing at the time, wind conditions, and weather can also play a factor.

Generally speaking, the number of golfers that make The Masters cut hovers between 50% and 65%. For example, the lowest number of golfers to make the cut was 39.6% at the 1957 Masters during the most difficult years of making the cut. On the flip side, 74.7% of golfers made the cut in 2019 — the final year with the most lenient cut rules.

What’s the Typical Cut Line at The Masters?

Augusta National Leaderboard

The cut line, which is the score which a player must shoot through 36 holes to make the cut has also varied significantly over time based on weather, wind, and other conditions. The highest cut line at The Masters occurred in 1982, when a 154 — or +10 — was the cut. The 2007 Masters wasn’t far behind, featuring a cut line of 152, or +8.

Amazingly, the 2020 Masters Tournament had the lowest cut line of all time with par, or 144, as the cut line. The lowest cut line in Masters history aside from the 2020 anomaly is 145 — or +1 — which has occurred six times, but interestingly five times since 1992:

  • 1979
  • 1992
  • 1995
  • 2001
  • 2009
  • 2011

Between these highs and lows, the most common cut line throughout the Masters is a +4, or 148, which has occurred 14 times throughout the history of the tournament. And last but not least, the average cut line over the history of the Masters sits at 148.43.

Fun Facts About The Masters Cut Rule

Hole #12 at Augusta National Golf Club

While making the cut is always an exciting milestone for any professional golfer, The Masters cut rule has sorted out the best of the best in 85 different tournaments with plenty of interesting scenarios, shots, and situations along the way.

And while many people may know that Jack Nicklaus has won six Masters titles or that Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese player to win The Masters, The Masters cut rule brings another layer of curiosity and trivial facts. So if you want to hone your knowledge of The Masters to an exponential degree, here are some fun facts about the cut rule at the Masters:

  • Although he was  a Masters champion a record six times, Jack Nicklaus also holds the record for the most cuts made. Between 1960 and 2020, Nicklaus made the cut an impressive 37 times, only missing the cut in 1967 and 1994 while withdrawing from the 1983 edition of The Masters due to back spasms.
  • Both Fred Couples and Gary Player share the record for the most consecutive cuts made at The Masters. Couples made 23 consecutive cuts from 1983 to 2007 while Player made 23 cuts from 1959 to 1982. Both golfers also made 30 cuts throughout their careers, tying them for second all-time.
  • With first- and second-round scores of 68 and 73 (-3), German golfer Bernhard Langer became the oldest golfer in history to make The Masters cut at 63 years of age.
  • The 2020 Masters tournament had 32 international golfers make the cut of 144, making it the most successful tournament for non-U.S. citizens.
  • The 2019 Masters tournament had the greatest number of golfers make the cut at 65, as well as the highest percentage of golfers make the cut at 74.7% (65 out of 87).
  • The fewest number of golfers to make the cut was 40 in 1957, which also was the lowest number of golfers to make the cut at 39.6% (40 out of 101).
  • Players that don’t make the cut usually still walk away with about $10,000 in prize money.
  • You don’t have to be at the top of the leaderboard to win the Masters. In fact, you don't even need a great first round or second round. In 1956, Jack Burke Jr. pulled off one of the biggest upsets in professional golf. After narrowly making the cut and playing at +2 after 54 holes, Burke Jr. staged an eight-hole comeback to edge out Ken Venturi and win his first major.
  • To measure how difficult the tournament is, you only need to look back in history. At various points, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Fred Couples, Stewart Cink, Vijay Singh, and Brooks Koepka have all missed the cut at some point in their storied careers.

Cut Rules at Other Major Tournaments

The Open Championship or British Open  Scoreboard

In case you’re wondering, the other major tournaments and LIV Golf also have cut rules. Here’s a quick glance at how they work:

  • LIV Golf: As the rival to the PGA trying to do something different, LIV Golf officially has no cut rule.
  • U.S. Open: Low 70 players and any ties
  • The Open Championship (British Open): Low 70 players and any ties
  • PGA Championship: Low 60 players and any ties

Every golfer misses the cut at some point, but some players seem to do better than others. Since 2017, former FedEx Cup winners Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas — two golfers in the top 10 of PGA rankings — have only missed the cut once in any tournament.

The longest made-cut streak in the history of the tour belongs to Tiger Woods, who played through the weekend 142 consecutive times between 1998 and 2005.

Making the Cut in Your Personal Game

Golfer hitting a tee shot.

You may never grace Augusta during the first week of April or flirt with The Masters cut rule, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set goals for yourself. Whether you need to work on your short game with an indoor putting green or add a few new clubs to your bag, every step you take can get you a bit closer to a great round of golf. Adding in your own challenging cut line is just par for the course — or maybe it’s a bit higher.

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