What Is The Masters Cut Rule? Augusta National Format Explained

In the words of Jim Nantz, The Masters is "a tradition unlike any other". It is hard to argue with the CBS anchor, for the opening major of the season stands on its own when compared to other tournaments.

The only one of the four golf majors to be always held at the same course—Augusta National in Georgia—The Masters has a relatively small field compared to The British Open, the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open and does not normally split the field to start on the first and 10th tees in the first two rounds.

Unsurprisingly, The Masters also has a different cut rule compared to the other three majors and allows the smallest number of participants of golf's four big tournaments to play the final 36 holes.

Here's all you need to know about the cut rule at Augusta National ahead of the 85th edition of The Masters, which gets underway on Thursday.

Who makes the cut at The Masters?

Beginning from last year, the top 50-ranked players—including any ties—after the first two rounds make the cut for the final 36 holes.

The Masters differs from the other three majors. The top 70 and ties after the first two rounds play the final 36 holes at both The British Open and the PGA Championship, while the top 60 players and ties advance to the final two rounds of the U.S. Open.

Speaking ahead of the tournament in November, Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley explained the rule change had partly been brought as very few players had qualified by virtue of being within 10 shots of the leader after the first two rounds.

"While certainly it can happen, it just doesn't," Ridley said.

"It's not relevant that often, and we thought this was a way to sort of tighten things up and have a more predictable field size for the weekend."

The Masters
A detail of the bag of Hudson Swafford of the United States during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7 in Augusta, Georgia. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Has the cut rule at The Masters changed before?

Yes, several times. The change ushered in last year was the first alteration since 2013, when The Masters adopted a new cut rule allowing the top 50 players and ties plus any players within 10 strokes of the leader after the first two rounds to qualify for the final two rounds.

In 1957, The Masters first adopted a 36-hole cut, allowing the top 40-ranked players and ties after the first two rounds to continue playing on Saturday and Sunday. The cut was broadened to include the top-ranked 44 players and ties in 1962 and four years later the goalposts were shifted again, allowing anyone within 10 strokes of the leader at the conclusion of the second round to qualify for the final two rounds.

Who has made the most cuts at The Masters?

Gary Player and Fred Couples have both made the cut a record 23 consecutive times at Augusta. With the exception of 1973, when he sat out the tournament because of a medical problem, the former didn't miss the cut between 1959 and 1982, donning the Green Jacket in 1961, 1974 and 1978. Couples, meanwhile, was an ever-present figure in the final two days of the tournament between 1983 and 2007, triumphing in 1992.

Among players in the field this year, defending champion Dustin Johnson has missed the cut just once in 10 appearances at Augusta National, while world No. 2 Justin Thomas has made the cut in each of his five starts and Rory McIlroy has missed the cut just once in 12 appearances.