Wednesday, February 28

USGA Announces Death of 18-Hole Playoff; Is U.S. Open Diminished?

I suppose the death of the 18-hole playoff was inevitable. The USGA adamantly defended the tradition until two days ago when the following announcement broke. Heavy sigh. I know we live in an era during which the marriage of money and media rules the sports world. But a two-hole playoff? See Geoff Shackelford's comments below the announcement for additional perspective.


LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (Feb. 26, 2018) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced a revised playoff format for all four of its Open Championships – the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Senior Women's Open. Each championship will implement a two-hole aggregate playoff in the event of a tie at the end of 72 holes of stroke play, effective with the 2018 season.

"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/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."

"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 added. "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."

In all four USGA Open Championships, the two-hole aggregate playoff will be used to break any ties after 72 holes of stroke-play competition. If the playoff results in a tie, the tied players would immediately continue to play off hole-by-hole (sudden-death format) until the champion is determined.

In its 117-year history, the U.S. Open has had 33 playoffs that have employed 18- and 36-hole formats. There have been 12 playoffs in U.S. Women’s Open history. A three-hole playoff was held for the first time in 2011. The U.S. Senior Open, which held a three-hole playoff for the first time in 2002, has had six playoffs in its championship history.


Geoff Shackelford commented at his site:

"It is hard not to conclude this was a decision driven by a desire to appease television, or worse, to anticipate what networks might want without an actual demand from the broadcast partner. Given that 18-hole Monday playoffs were kept in place because of the championship's importance, this declaration that the U.S. Open is using one less hole than the PGA or Players – and two holes fewer than The Open – subtly diminishes the stature of the U.S. Open. Given how satisfying the three-hole aggregate has been as an ideal solution between the vagaries of sudden death and the excess of returning on a Monday, this can only be chalked up to a decision in the best interests of an entity other than the U.S. Open.

"If television is the culprit, I find it hard to believe Fox or any network would prefer to be blamed for compromising the integrity of America's national championship to get to some summer programming on a Sunday night. This feels more like the USGA Executive Committee anticipating the imaginary needs of a television partner overpaying to broadcast their championships."


skip said...

Instead of a two-hole aggregate playoff, why not three starting at #16?
Would add one more hole, and could be more beneficial to a player who has one bad hole.
Just a thought.

Ian said...

Completely agree with you skip. The Open has a four hole playoff which I think is too long. Two is too short and three just about right.

I don't think changing things will diminish the tournament in any way. Fans want to see a finish on the day and Players' schedules are so full now that I think they will welcome the change.

Pee Wee said...

I absolutely abhor sudden death playoffs. You've played for 4 rounds and it comes down to that! At least a 4 hole aggregate.