Eddie Pepperell has a story. Call it an ode to the cut.
Of late, the subject has been a talking point. In short, they’ve traditionally played pro golf with a cutline, and now it’s being trimmed a bit. On Wednesday, the PGA Tour said it would play eight of its newly named designated events next year without one, and that follows the format of Saudi-backed LIV Golf, which will play all 14 of its events this year with all of its golfers playing every round.
Money talks here. With no cut, players will get paid regardless of play, and fans and advertisers will have a guarantee that Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and everyone else will be around for the weekend — and McIlroy said as much on Wednesday in his press conference ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, though he also correctly noted that cutless events have been played before.
“If you think of like the four WGCs, you’ve got the three playoff events, you’ve got the CJ Cup, the Zozo, so there’s precedent there for no-cut events,” said McIlroy, a Tour spokesman as much as anyone over the past year. “The only reason no-cut events are a big deal is because LIV has come along. So there is precedent for no-cut events. There’s been no-cut events since I’ve been a member of the Tour and way beyond that as well.
“So, yeah, is there maybe going to be a few more of them? Maybe. That’s still TBD by the way. That’s not been decided yet. But if we do go down that path, there’s precedent there to argue for no-cut events.
“It keeps the stars there for four days. You ask Mastercard or whoever it is to pay 20 million dollars for a golf event, they want to see the stars at the weekend. They want a guarantee that the stars are there. So if that’s what needs to happen, then that’s what happens.”
On Tuesday, a day before the announcement, Xander Schauffele echoed the thought.
“You know, we’re trying to make the best product,” he said. “To answer the cut question, I am always for a cut. Emotionally, I’m for a cut. There is an aspect of it, I would say, that’s really entertaining for some.
“But at the end of the day, a lot of people like and a lot of kids like to come see the top players play in the world. And if they’re not having their best, they can still — if they got a baseball game on Saturday, Timmy can still come with his dad and watch Rory tee up on Sunday, no matter what happens.
“I think it’s also an easier package to sell to the sponsors when you tell ’em that 20 of the top 20 players in the world are going to be there Thursday through Sunday. I think that’s an easier package to sell when it comes to sort of what makes the best product.”
All of this has made Pepperell reflective. The Englishman is one of the more thoughtful pros, and a four-tweet thread on Wednesday was that.
For background, in a four-event stretch in 2018, Pepperell was DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard at the BMW International Open and missed the cut at the Irish Open — before finishing second at the Scottish Open ad sixth at the Open Championship. Then, the next year, he played in the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, both no-cut events. You may know where this is going.
“In mid 2018, I bogeyed the last hole in back to back events in Germany and Ireland to M/C by 1 shot,” Pepperell wrote. “It killed me. I went home, thought about s**t, and then came 2nd at the Scottish Open and (nearly) won the Open at Carnoustie (with a hangover..)
“A year on in 2019, thanks in part to those two good performances in Scotland, I recall playing poorly in both the WGC’s in Mexico and Memphis, and not caring about anything during the final round.
“Missing cuts is essential for growth as a professional golfer.
“We could argue that the top guys who will be playing the elevated events in 2024 have already done all their ‘growing’. But you’d be surprised how much it means to make a cut when your backs up against the wall and you’re struggling. It’s a mini win, and it breeds great things.
“So whether it’s LIV or now the PGA Tour, as someone who has played competitively for years now, removing the cut is one of the worst things to happen to the game in the last 12 months.
The question is, is Pepperell universally right?
We’ll soon have more no-cut tournaments to find out.