Published April 28, 2016
Until this year, the Sony Open did not hold many fond memories for Brandt Snedeker.
He made his PGA Tour debut as a rookie in 2007 and missed the cut by seven shots. He returned the following year, shot 68-72 at Waialae to make the cut, walked into the scoring trailer and was told he would not have a tee time the next day.
"I remember making the cut and the guy in the scoring trailer said, 'There's a new rule — MDF.' And I said, 'What's MDF? What the hell are they talking about, MDF?' I finally made the cut and they're telling me I can't play," Snedeker said.
MDF stands for "Made the cut, did not finish." It became the most loathsome acronym in golf.
And it all started eight years ago in the Sony Open.
That's when the PGA Tour took its first step toward trying to reduce the size of the field on the weekend. A dozen times the previous year, after the cut was made to the top 70 and ties, the field was so large that the final round had to be played in threesomes off both tees, taking at least 5 1/2 hours.
It was no good for television. It was no fun for anyone.
Not that the original alternative was much better.
The tour decided that if more than 78 players made the cut, the closest number to 60 advanced to the weekend. Everyone else received last-place money and credit for making the cut, even though they didn't play. So in 2008 at the Sony Open, there were 68 players at 1-under 139 and 86 players at even-par 140.
The 18 players at 140 were sent home. That included Snedeker, who was only nine shots out of the lead.
Put that into context this year. Matt Kuchar made the cut on the number Friday and was nine shots out of the lead. Under the original policy to limit the size of weekend fields, he would have been on his way to the next tournament. On Saturday, he shot 62 and went into the final round tied for sixth. Even if he doesn't win, there are FedEx Cup points, ranking points and Ryder Cup points to be earned.
But eight years ago in Hawaii, the new "MDF" policy was all the rage — or all the outrage.
"It's a stupid rule," said John Daly, another victim that year.
Daly told of meeting a family from Australia who wanted to come watch him play and planned to be there on Saturday and "now they're not going to get to see me play." Then again, any fan of Daly should know not to wait until Saturday to watch him. Sometimes it's best not to wait until Friday.
Two weeks later, 19 other players had "MDF" next to their names at Torrey Pines.
Snedeker was so mad at the Sony Open that he called PGA Tour headquarters demanding an explanation. Stephen Ames was curious what would happen if Tiger Woods were even in that position and the tour explained to sponsors why it was sending home golf's biggest attraction (Woods had his only "MDF" six years later).
The mandatory players meeting was held that week in San Diego, and while the new anti-doping policy was tops on the agenda, there was greater passion over whether someone who finished two rounds in the top 70 could get a tee time Saturday.
The tour changed it a month later to the policy that remains today. If more than 78 players make the 36-hole cut, there is a 54-hole cut for top 70 and ties.
"Everyone talks about how rigid the tour is," Snedeker said. "But there are certain things where they say, 'OK, we may have screwed this up. Let's reevaluate.' They worked it out, and I think it's a great policy now. I think that speaks to their willingness to get it right."
Last season, there were seven tournaments where the "MDF" came into play. This season, the Sony Open was the third time it was used in six events with a cut.
It seems to be working. No one likes it. But hardly anyone is complaining.