What Is the Meaning of an Asterisk on a Golf Leaderboard?
If you are watching a professional golf tournament live or on television, you will occasionally see an asterisk on the leaderboard next to a player's name. The PGA Tour uses the asterisk to indicate a player's starting position at major championship or invitational events, while non-PGA tournaments at other golf clubs might or might not use the asterisk on their scorecard.
An asterisk next to a player's last name on a golf leaderboard means the player began play on the back nine of the golf course that day. With a quick scan of the leaderboard, you are able to note which players teed off on the front nine versus those who started on the back nine.
For example, if Tiger Woods has an asterisk next to his name on the leaderboard at the Masters Tournament on the second day at Augusta National, it means he started the day on the back nine. If Jon Rahm does not have an asterisk next to his name at the Open Championship, it means he started at the front nine that day.
Knowing whether a player began play on the front nine versus the back nine helps you put his score in context when looking at the complete rankings leaderboard. For example, if a player who started on the back nine finishes the 18th hole with a score over par or even par, he still has nine more holes to try to get his number of strokes under par.
Groups of PGA Tour golfers occasionally begin play on the back nine if, for some reason, the entire field needs to complete play that day in less time.
If groups had to begin play one by one on the first hole, it would take longer for the entire field to complete the round because of how quickly the fairways would get backed up at each hole. By starting half the group on the 10th hole, the field finishes in roughly half the time.
Depending on the event, half the group might begin play on the back nine because an earlier round was suspended by inclement weather. Similarly, if the weather forecast indicates an approaching storm, half the field may start on the back nine to beat the storm.
In some professional tournaments, such as a U.S. Open where the field is especially large, half the players begin play on the back nine during the first and second rounds of play. In most cases, in the final two rounds, and always the final round no matter what, the initial field is so dwindled down that it is suitable to start everyone on the front nine on the same day.