When several players finished their first 36 holes at TPC River Highlands in even-par 140 Friday, most assumed they would be making an early exit from the Hartford area after missing the cut. Thanks to a key late bogey and the performance of amateur Justin Thomas, though, 12 players were given a second chance this weekend at the Travelers Championship.
Beginning the week with 156 players, the 36-hole cut trimmed the event's field to the low 70 players plus ties. While the cut line vacillated between even and 1 under for much of Friday afternoon, as play was set to conclude there were 71 players at 1 under or better, where the cut appeared ready to fall. Even after Gary Christian bogeyed the home hole to fall from 1 under to even, meaning exactly 70 players were left at 139 or better, the cut seemed like it would not be affected.
But that was not the case.
That's because among the top 70 players was amateur Justin Thomas, playing this week on a sponsor's exemption just weeks removed from winning an NCAA team title with Alabama. Thomas, who will also play in the John Deere Classic next month, carded a 4-under 66 Friday to finish the first two rounds at 2-under 138.
While most assume the PGA Tour's rules regarding the 36-hole cut read low 70 'players' and ties, they actually read low 70 'professionals' and ties. That meant that Thomas' score did not affect the cut line one way or the other, and that since Christian's closing bogey left only 69 pros at 139 or better, the cut line was actually bumped to even-par 140.
The turn of events brought 12 players back into the mix this weekend in Hartford, notably Lee Westwood, Rickie Fowler, Tim Clark and former major winner Stewart Cink. With 83 players teeing it up Saturday, a secondary cut will be implemented following the third round to again trim the field to the low 70 professionals and ties – plus Thomas, should he still be inside the new cut line.