What Is the Playoff Format for PGA Tour Tournaments?

Do you know what the playoff format is on the PGA Tour? We're talking about "regular" PGA Tour tournaments, the non-majors and non-special events. Putting those majors/specials aside, the playoff format at all other PGA Tour tournaments is sudden death.

There are 40+ tournaments on the PGA Tour every year, and all of them — excluding the four majors (Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, British Open) plus The Players Championship — use a sudden-death playoff format.

When two or more golfers complete all four rounds (72 holes) of a tournament tied for first place, they must continue into a playoff to determine the winner. A sudden-death playoff works like this:

  • In a two-person, sudden-death playoff, the first golfer to record a lower score on a hole wins the playoff and is the champion. The second golfer in the playoff finishes in second place. If, on the first playoff hole, Golfer A scores 3 and Golfer B scores 4, Golfer A wins the playoff. If they tie scores on the first extra hole, they continue to the second. And they keep going as long as there are ties, until one of them wins a hole to end the playoff.
  • When three or more golfers are in a sudden-death playoff, the same rules apply: The playoff ends as soon as one of those golfers make a lower score on a hole than all the others. But it's also possible with three or more players that one (or more) golfers will be eliminated while two (or more) continue playing. For example, on the first extra hole, Golfer A scores 4, B makes 4 and C makes 5. Golfer C is eliminated, but Golfers A and B continue the playoff. If Golfer A ultimately wins the playoff, the Golfers B and C finish tied for second place.
Each PGA Tour tournament that uses the sudden-death playoff format sets its own rules about which hole the playoff starts on, and which holes are then played if the playoff continues beyond the first extra hole. But every sudden-death playoff on the PGA Tour begins on the 18th hole.

What about those few tournaments that do not use the sudden-death playoff format?

  • The Players Championship once used a sudden-death format, too, but discontinued that in 2013. Since then, this tournament employs a three-hole, aggregate score format with the golfers playing Holes 16, 17 and 18. If two or more are still tied, they continue, but in a sudden-death fashion, on Holes 17 and 18.

All four major championships once used 18-hole playoffs that took place the day after the conclusion of the main, 72-hole tournament. But eventually three of the four switched to cumulative playoffs played over multiple holes (click on the links for more details on each):

  • The Masters playoff format: Sudden death, starting on Hole 18, continuing to Hole 10 if necessary, then alternating on those two holes for as long as it takes.
  • PGA Championship playoff format: Three-hole, aggregate playoff. The golfers' combined scores over the three playoff holes determine the winner. If two or more playoff participants remain tied after the three holes, they continue in sudden death.
  • U.S. Open playoff format: Two-hole, aggregate playoff. Sudden-death holes follow if necessary.
  • British Open playoff format: Four-hole, aggregate playoff, followed by sudden-death if necessary.

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