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U.S. Open changes its playoff format

A USGA flag flies during a practice day

A USGA flag flies during a practice day at the 2013 U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

In a major break with tradition, the U.S. Golf Association announced Monday it has done away with the 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open and instead will have a two-hole aggregate tiebreaker.

The rule will take effect in the 2018 Open June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills.

It means the U.S. Open will join the other three major championships by having ties decided immediately after regulation play on Sunday, rather than requiring golfers to return for a full round on Monday. The latter has been criticized for being anticlimactic and inaccessible to many golf fans.

The USGA always has argued that an 18-hole round represents the best way to determine a true champion. Drama was thick the last time there had been a Monday playoff, at Torrey Pines in 2008. Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate in a matchup that went to a sudden-death format after the two remained tied through 18. There have been 33 playoffs in Open history.

“We decided after talking with a lot of stakeholders — that was players, it was officials, it was volunteers, vendors, broadcast [people], that golf really in this day and age had gotten to the point where everybody really wanted to see a Sunday finish,” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said in a video released by the USGA.

Davis added that the new rule would apply to the Women’s Open and Men’s and Women’s Senior Opens as well.

Davis had been a strong proponent of the 18-hole playoff, but on Monday he said, “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.”

If the golfers are still tied after two holes, they will go to a sudden-death format.

The Masters has a sudden-death playoff, seen last April when Sergio Garcia defeated Justin Rose on the first extra hole. The PGA Championship uses a three-hole aggregate, the British Open a four-hole aggregate.

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