USGA does away with 18-hole playoff at U.S. Open

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The tie-breaking procedure utilized by the U.S. Golf Association for the men’s U.S. Open always seemed to be a bit much. If players were tied after 72 holes of the most grueling golf imaginable, they would come back the next day to play 18 more. It was tough for the players, tough for any fans who wanted to watch Monday’s round either in person or on television and tough for the networks that had to find a broadcast slot for the playoff.

On Monday, the USGA did away with it, announcing that U.S. Open ties will be settled with a two-hole aggregate playoff starting this year. If a tie remains after two holes, the Open would move to sudden death. The new format more closely hews to the tiebreakers used at the Masters (sudden death), British Open (four-hole aggregate) and PGA Championship (three-hole aggregate).

“We decided after talking with a lot of stakeholders — it was players, it was officials, it was volunteers, vendors, the broadcast — that golf really in this day and age got to the point where … everybody wanted to see a Sunday finish,” USGA Executive Director and CEO Mike Davis said in an interview posted on the organization’s Twitter feed.

The USGA already had done away with the 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Women’s Open (in 2007) and U.S. Senior Open (1999), moving to a three-hole aggregate tiebreaker. Ties at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which will be played for the first time this year, already were to be broken with a three-hole aggregate playoff. All four USGA events now will use the two-hole aggregate playoff.

Davis said there was no specific reason the USGA decided on a two-hole playoff, saying all of the tie-breaking procedures had their merits. Left unsaid were the pace-of-play issues that have dogged some U.S. Opens as the courses become longer and more diabolically arduous (though the doom-and-gloom predictions of six-hour rounds at Erin Hills last year never materialized). A two-hole playoff — as opposed to three or longer — would more likely ensure those Sunday finishes that Davis talked about.

The men’s U.S. Open last went to a playoff in 2008, when Tiger Woods outlasted Rocco Mediate after 19 holes (the 18-hole tiebreaker round plus a one-hole sudden-death playoff after they remained tied) for his most recent Grand Slam title. In 2001, Retief Goosen opened up a five-shot lead on Mark Brooks and cautiously held on for a two-shot victory in a much less exciting finish.

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