A Cut Above

This is your captain speaking. Please fasten your seatbelts because we are about to descend deep into the weeds. Thank you for your attention and we will advise when it is safe to move about the cabin again.

 

The second round of a golf tournament is the second most important day of the week. Sure nobody takes home a trophy but in most cases (excluding the Champions Tour, a handful of five day tournaments, and exhibitions like the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup) roughly half the field gets to play on and cash a check, perhaps even hold a trophy, while the other half packs their bags, pays their caddie and heads to the next event without earning a penny. Golf is great that way… no play, no pay. That whittling of the field, the separating of the weekly wheat from the chaff, the cream rising to the top is carried out in the form of, what golf calls, a cut. You make the cut, on you go. You miss the cut, sayonara and we’ll see you next week.

 

If you watch golf on TV or follow along via your favorite website you’ll notice little or no mention of “the cut” is made on day one (Thursday, despite the caveats listed above, for our purposes). But come Friday “the cut” becomes a storyline for several reasons. People want to know if their favorite player is going to be around for the weekend. There have been many occasions when a player “made the cut on the number” and went on to win the tournament. Tournament officials want to know how many players will tee it up on the weekend to schedule tee times for groupings and finish times for television broadcast partner purposes. It also determines whether the play commences off of one tee (the first) or two (the first and tenth). It is of interest to TV producers because certain players require coverage whether they are in the heart of the prescribed broadcast window or not. If you don’t think all of that is “in the weeds enough” you’re right. So here we go!

 

This post concerns the verbiage used to describe the cut. There seem to be two; “Current Cut” and “Projected Cut”. When I produced golf for TV I was firmly in the camp of, in fact one of the loudest voices for, “Current Cut.” I preferred it because that’s what it is. Each time you look at a leaderboard it’s a snapshot in time and that snapshot is a current snapshot. So imagine both my dismay when FOX used the inaccurate and mystifying “Projected Cut” during their USGA golf coverage and my delight when GolfChannel/NBC went with the more accurate and clear “Current Cut” on its broadcast of the British Open. The PGA TOUR (on the website) and the USGA seem to prefer the more nebulous “Projected Cut”. In fact the USGA goes so far as to explain it on its website thusly (bold words in italics are theirs):

 

We do not simply show the cutline at the player in 60th place, as everyone in the field would have to play even par for the remainder of the day for a cutline of that type to be accurate. Our goal is to project at the score at which the cutline will fall.

Wait… isn’t “par” the score a professional is expected to make on each hole? Didn’t someone, somewhere, at some time, establish par as “the number of strokes set as a standard for a specific hole of complete course.” Isn’t that what we should expect these men and women to accomplish?

Our cutline projects what the leader board will look like at the end of the second round. That projection is determined using a combination of actual scores for players and the hole statistics for the holes they have yet to play. For example, if a player has played 17 holes in even par in the second round and his 18th hole is statistically a bogey hole, that player’s projected second-round score would be 1-over 71. That score would be combined with his first-round score to determine his projected 36-hole score. 

So Carnac or Kreskin or Penn and Teller sit in a scoring trailer and stare into a crystal ball “projecting” the future, based on the past, using tea leaves, eye of newt and the equally magical “statistics” to determine a number that may or may not change once, twice, three times or never because human beings are playing a game.

We perform these calculations for every player after every hole, which impacts the hole statistics used to project players’ scores for the rest of their rounds. As players post scores, the projected cutline will move as the second round progresses.

Oh by the way so will the “CURRENT CUT LINE!” It’s all balderdash and at least the PGA TOUR doesn’t bother to try and explain why it uses those words.

 

We don’t put a qualifier on the leader of the tournament by saying he or she is the “projected leader” just because that person happens to have a better score at the moment than the other golfers still on the course in pursuit. He or she is the leader, plain and simple. And the cut line is the cut line, plain and simple. There is no magic, there are no projections. There are simply 60 or 63 or 70 or 78 players currently within the number to make the cut and play the weekend. That all happens in real time not in some imaginary future. So “bravo”  Golf Channel and “boo” FOX. Come on PGA TOUR and USGA change the nomenclature to “current cut.”

 

This is your captain speaking… I told you we were heading deep into the weeds but we’re clear now. It’s safe to roam about the cabin at your leisure.

About Keith Hirshland

My name is Keith Hirshland and I am a four decades television veteran who has spent time both in front of and behind the camera. During nearly forty years in broadcasting my path has crossed in front of, behind and alongside some of the best in the business... And some of the worst. Many of those people I count as friends while others wouldn't make the effort to spit on me if I was on fire. This television life started early watching my Mom and Dad found, fund and run a local affiliate TV station in Reno, Nevada. As a teenager approaching adulthood I worked for them, first as an on-air sports reporter/anchor and later as a director and producer. Jobs in the industry took me across the country and then to many places around the world. Sports is my passion and putting it on TV has been my business. Production credits include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, college football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo but the majority of my time "in the chair" since 1990 has been invested in the game of golf with both ESPN and The Golf. Channel ( I was one of the first forty people hired by TGC in 1994 ). I am a fan and I watch TV sports as a fan but I also have hundreds of thousands of hours watching from inside a production truck. I think that makes me qualified to comment, my hope is you agree. I have written two books, Cover Me Boys, I'm Going In (Tales of the Tube from a Broadcast Brat), a memoir that is a tribute to my parents, the hard working, creative people who started ESPN2 and The Golf Channel and a look back at my life in television. My second book is a novel, Big Flies, and is a mystery that tells the story of a father and a son with four of the world's most notorious unsolved robberies as a backdrop. I look forward to sharing new thoughts about golf, golf television, sports in general and the broadcast industry with you. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are not connected to nor endorsed by any other person, association, company or organization.
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