US Open Playoff Format and Rules

What happens if the U.S. Open golf tournament finishes 72 holes with two or more golfers tied for the lead? Those golfers have a playoff to determine the champion, of course. But after decades of using a next-day, 18-hole playoff format, the USGA changed the U.S. Open playoff format. So what is it now?

The Current U.S. Open Playoff Format and Rules

In 2018, the USGA switched the U.S. Open two a two-hole, aggregate-score playoff format. That playoff begins, when necessary, as soon as all the golfers involved can get to the tee of the first playoff hole.

What, exactly, is a "two-hole, aggregate-score playoff"? The playoff is schedule to last two holes, and the golfers'combined scores on those two holes are what determine the winner. If Golfer A scores 4 on the first playoff hole and 5 on the second, his aggregate score is 9.

And if two or more of the golfers involved in the playoff are still tied after those scheduled two extra holes? They keep playing, but in a sudden-death format: the first to win a hole outright wins the playoff.

So, to sum it up: The U.S. Open playoff format is two holes, aggregate score, and if ties remain they continue into sudden-death.

The order of play in the playoff — who tees off first, second, etc. — is determined by drawing numbers out of a hat on the tee of the first playoff hole.

The two holes used for the playoff will often be the 17th and 18th, or 10th and 18th — holes that are close together and lead the golfers back to the clubhouse. But the identity of those playoff holes may change from year to year depending on the layout of the golf course being played.

Previous U.S. Open Playoff Formats

Now we know what the current format is, what about the past formats? Here's the timeline:
  • 1895-1925: 18-hole playoff
  • 1925-1927: 18-hole playoff the next day
  • 1928-1931: 36-hole playoff the next day
  • 1932-1953: 18-hole playoff the next day (golfers still tied after 18 holes continued to a second 18-hole playoff, as was the case in all years to this point)
  • 1954-2017: 18-hole playoff the next day (golfers still tied after 18 holes continued into a sudden-death format)
And beginning in 2018, the current format. The U.S. Open was last of the major championships (men's, women's or senior) that used an 18-hole playoff.

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