USGA Moving Away from 18-hole Playoffs Is a Mistake

By | February 27, 2018

2018 to Bring New Playoff Format for U.S. Open Championships | via USGA.org

“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.”

I had to pause and think about this one for 24 hours. My first instinct was to not like it. There was something special about keeping the tradition of an 18-hole playoff format in a sport that is so rapidly changing in so many other ways. I understand the arguments against the format. Fans and TV networks alike weren’t being very well served by having invested their Sunday to watching a tournament only to be told to come back on a Monday to see the conclusion.

I realized I don’t hate the 18-hole Monday playoff because I’m in a position to be available on Mondays to watch golf. The majority of viewers aren’t and pleasing those viewers is all that really counts at the end of the day.

So, okay, no more 18-hole playoffs. But a 2-hole playoff instead? I’m not sure that makes very much sense either.

I’m glad they decided to avoid going to a conventional sudden-death playoff format. The USGA is correct. The U.S. Open Championships are special. But is a 2-hole playoff enough of a difference? Nope. The Open Championship went to a 4-hole system followed by sudden-death all the way back in 1985. The USGA obviously thinks that system is too long. May I propose a compromise of 3-holes?

It isn’t much of a difference but it feels better. Why? The stated reason for avoiding a sudden-death playoff is to make sure a single mistake doesn’t cost a player the whole tournament. Given that, doesn’t it seems more reasonable to give them a bit more time to recover from said mistake? You know what? The whole thing doesn’t right true anyway. A single mistake can still easily cost a player the tournament no matter how many holes are used to decide the winner.

So, it turns out my original instincts were correct. I don’t like it. Let’s keep the 18-hole format and value tradition for a change. They won’t though. I wonder how long it will take to find out if 2-holes works or not? When we do, I just hope we end up with a great champion and not an asterisk.