New U.S. Open Playoff Format

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By H Killefer

  • 12 Replies
  1. As announced by the USGA on Monday (2/26): "A revised playoff format for all four USGA Open Championships – the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Senior Women’s Open, will take effect in 2018, with each championship implementing a two-hole aggregate playoff in the event of a tie at the end of 72 holes of stroke play."

    What are people's thoughts on the new policy?

    First, a discussion of removing the 18-hole aggregate format for the U.S. Open (note that the U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open, and inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open had been using a three-hole aggregate format):

    --Pros: (almost) guarantees a Sunday finish; added value/insurance that Sunday ticket holders get to see the conclusion of the tournament; same logic for the majority of television viewers; lower operating costs (assumed USGA perspective) --Cons: departure from historical precedent (and opens up arguments around comparability of U.S. Open victories); much higher probability of random chance deciding the winner

    Second, a discussion of an appropriate substitute: While an argument can be made for a two-hole aggregate format being marginally more equitable than sudden-death, it still imposes undue burden and minimal recovery opportunity in the event of an 'unlucky' break that leads to a high score on the first hole. Maybe the retort is nothing more than "c'est la vie", the better player won. I think the PGA Championship's three-hole aggregate is an adequate baseline, and if the USGA was simply looking to offer a distinct policy from the other majors, maybe they should move the Sunday tee times up to allow for a five-hole or six-hole aggregate.

  2. J.R. F

    J.R. F
    La Porte, IN

    I don't like this at all. I think that it should have remained 18 holes. I do think that your idea of a 5 or 6 hole playoff would be better than 2 holes. The only problem is that they take 6 hours to play a round in the U.S. Open. Can you move it up early enough to get 6 holes in before it's pitch black?
  3. J.R. F; it's interesting how the U.S. Open final pairing (final round) tee times have been getting progressively later over the last 15-20 years. The three most recent tournaments (2015-2017) have placed the final pairing between 2:30-3:00 pm local time. For comparison, the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach was... 12:40 pm PDT.

    I'm sure there's a plethora of marketing, financial, and television ratings data to support the trend, but as a television viewer (and hypothetical attendee), the conclusion has become too late in my book. If the U.S. Open were to accommodate a five- or six-hole aggregate playoff, I would set the final pairing at 1:00 pm local time and work backward from there. If the opening final round tee time ends up being 6:45 am, that's tough. Most gate entry begins at 6:00 am, so it shouldn't require a substantial change in logistics.

    While I will miss the 'war of attrition' aspect of the 18-hole aggregate format, a truncated affair will make for more accessible viewing, and better aligns with targeted efforts to speed up the game.
  4. J.R. F

    J.R. F
    La Porte, IN

    I agree with you completely on the start times. I am absolutely certain that the start times all boil down to the network and the commercial times that have been sold. They certainly don't want it leaking into prime time on the east coast if it is out west. That's why you have a 12:40 last pairing at Pebble Beach.
    Was there any influence from the networks over the years to change this? I would bet that some of the answer lies there. Money, like it or not, seems to be first in the mind of organizations like the USGA, NCAA, etc. I don't feel that these types of organizations have the "purity" of the sport in mind anymore. Am I cynical? Yes.
  5. JAM


    All U.S. Open Championships should use the same format, three hole aggregate. It's great for the fans in attendance, the TV audience and let's not forget the players. Under this format the start of the fourth round should begin an hour earlier.
  6. JAM; completely agree that the U.S. open should have been incorporated into the prevailing policy (U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open, and inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open), which was a three-hole aggregate. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the three-hole aggregate enjoyed majority approval and support, yet the USGA has elected to adopt an untested and arbitrarily short number of playoff holes. Per my reply to J.R. F, I also agree that the final pairing (final round) tee times need to be shifted earlier in the afternoon.
  7. Chuck Z

    Chuck Z
    Mt Pleasant, SC

    Last of the major tournaments to go away from a 18 hole Monday finish. A short playoff on Sunday is fine. It is a real nightmare to have volunteers, security, etc., etc., and I think the players will most likely like it, so they can move on to their next tournament, if they are scheduled. I vote yes.
  8. I think it's a good idea.

    I imagine the viewership drops drastically being on a Monday. Plus if someone blows someone out through 9-11 holes it kills the dramatic effect as well.

    I'm all for the change.
  9. I like it!

    Monday finishes are usually depressing I think.
    1) cuz I'm usually working so I miss it
    2) there's a chance that after 9-11 holes the match cud be dull if someone's up by 3 or r shots
    3) it's tough watch all the hype and Sunday and not have a winner

    Anyways just a few thoughts on it.
  10. Jerry M

    Jerry M
    Dallas, TX

    I like the Sunday conclusion. Just wish it was 3 holes instead of 2. However I agree with Killefer, with the late start for the last pairing, it might be difficult to finish this on a Sunday. I assume the USGA has taken this into consideration.
  11. Rob_Roth1

    San Diego, CA

    I hate it nothing better than an extra 18 holes of golf on Monday. USGA knows how to ruining everything
  12. tdogg21

    Chambersburg, PA

    I personally don't like it. I like the 18 hole playoff and the two I remember where both exciting. In my work, I have the advantage that I would still get to watch a Monday finish while working. With that being said, I get them wanting to finish on Sunday. I just don't like two holes. I think one or four. The British Open is four and that seems to work well. To me, two holes really isn't any better than sudden death.

    As far as TV times, the tee times have been creeping later so the finish is as close to or in east coast prime time. They want that final round to be in prime time if possible. In 2015 the last tee time was at 6PM EST! I love some prime time golf, but if they think 18 holes on Monday is bad, imagine if they have to come back for one hole on Monday.
  13. Michael M

    Michael M
    Hermitage, PA

    Don't like it. When I volunteered at the 2016 Open at Oakmont, I was willing to work a fifth volunteer shift for the playoff if it was needed. I just said then that I wouldn't return home from Oakmont until the tournament was over, even if it went an extra 18 holes on Monday.

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