How Does the U.S. Open Playoff Work?

The Big Lead

The U.S. Open long operated with a drastically different playoff format than the other major championships. A tie through 72 holes used to necessitate an 18-hole playoff between the deadlocked party. There were 33 such incidents and the last came in 2008 when Tiger Woods outlasted Rocco Mediate on a Monday.

Those days are gone though as the USGA enacted a major rule change last year. Now, if two or more golfers are tied after four rounds, they’ll play two holes and the best aggregate score will win. If still tied after these two holes, the competition will then become sudden-death.

The Masters uses a sudden death format, while the PGA Championship employs a three-hole aggregate, and the Open a four-hole version.

USGA CEO and executive director Mike Davis said the governing body solicited input from players, fans, volunteers and broadcast partners, among other entities, before making the change.

“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,” Davis said in a statement after the change was made. “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. … 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.”

Golf enthusiasts rooting for several hours of bonus golf on a fifth day of the tournament will have to make their peace and accept that times change and so to do regulations.