The 18-hole playoff format that has been a part of the U.S. Open men’s golf championship for decades was officially retired – fittingly – on Monday.
While some traditionalists will grouse about the change, the USGA’s decision to implement a two-hole aggregate playoff in the event of a tie in its four major championships beginning this year feels like another step forward for the organization.
“We know how important it is to everyone in the golf world to see play conclude on the Sunday of a major championship, and to award the trophy to the champion,” said USGA CEO and executive director Mike Davis, who made the announcement prior to online player registration for each USGA Open Championship, which opens next week. “After receiving input from a variety of constituents, including players, fans, volunteers, officials and our broadcast partners, it clearly came across as something that everyone valued, and would benefit from.”
Particularly in recent years, the specter of a Monday finish hung over the U.S. Open. While some playoffs were memorable – Tiger Woods’ victory over Rocco Mediate in 2008 at Torrey Pines comes to mind – others felt anticlimactic. In an age when attention spans have shortened and keeping television and online viewers engaged has become more challenging, the USGA’s decision is a reflection of the times.
“There is no right or wrong way to determine a winner in stroke play, but we’ve seen over the years how the aggregate playoff has served us well in both the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open,” Davis said. “Two holes will allow a player to recover from any single mistake, and at the same time, provide a memorable, and perhaps dramatic, experience for all involved.”
During the 117-year history of the U.S. Open, there were 33 playoffs of either 18 or 36 holes.
With the U.S. Open adopting the two-hole aggregate format, each of the men’s four major championships will have a different way of determining a champion if players are tied after 72 holes.
The Masters uses a sudden-death playoff, the Open Championship has a four-hole aggregate playoff and the PGA Championship uses a three-hole format.
The new format will be in effect at Shinnecock Hills when the U.S. Open is played there June 14-17. It also will be used for the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek, the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor and the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club.