The news out of Ponte Vedra Beach this morning is that the PGA Tour’s crown jewel, the Players Championship, is shifting from its traditional sudden-death playoff to a three-hole aggregate format. Starting this year, deadlocks at the end of 72 holes will be broken with one more tour of Nos. 16, 17 and 18 at the TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course.
While eliminating the possibility of the old one-and-done playoff, the move will subject combatants to a second test of Pete Dye’s distinctive finishing stretch – the risk-reward par-5 16th, where players can make anything from eagle to other; the island-green par-3 17th, one of the most nerve-racking short-iron shots in golf; and the stern par-4 18th, with water lining the entire left side. If competitors remain tied after three holes, the playoff will revert to sudden death starting at 17, proceeding to 18 and then repeating 16, 17 and 18 until a winner is determined.
By adopting the aggregate format, the Players joins two of the four majors, the Open Championship and PGA Championship, which settle ties with four- and three-hole versions, respectively. The U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open also employ three-hole aggregate playoffs.
At first blush this seems to be an inspired decision by Finchem & Co. The finishing troika at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most recognized in golf, and it stands to reason that an extra stanza across these holes will make for compelling TV. Of course, the three-hole duration also lends itself to anticlimax, particularly if a playoff participant rinses a ball or two on 16 and 17.
Still, props to the Tour for the new wrinkle.