The U.S. Open is one of golf’s most epic events. As such, it’s got an epic tiebreaker.
If four rounds aren’t enough to separate a champion from a stacked field at the 2017 U.S. Open, the players tied for first place will return to Erin Hills Monday morning for a full round aimed at determining a champion. With four golfers starting their Sunday rounds within one stroke of leader Brian Harman, the odds of some extra golf look pretty good.
The U.S. Open is the only major tournament to rely on an 18-hole tiebreaker.
- The PGA Championship transitioned to sudden death playoff in the 1970s, and now uses a three-hole aggregate playoff.
- The Masters eschewed an 18-hole standoff not long after, moving to sudden death in 1976.
- The British Open uses a four-hole aggregate playoff.
It’s easy to understand why these prestigious events would move away from a grueling extra day of golf. Instead of wrapping up neatly on Sunday evening, the U.S. Open would push its action into the middle of a Monday, where many fans would be unable to watch live thanks to their work schedules. It also makes things considerably more difficult for the television stations covering the event; FOX, this year’s network, would have to adjust its weekday schedule to accommodate an extra five hours of broadcast time swallowed up by a playoff. The point is, it’s just not ideal and a bit of an anachronistic way to break a tie at this point.
If Sunday’s action ends with a winner, it would make history.
Consecutive U.S. Opens without a playoff: 8. We have never gone 9 in a row without one. #USOpen— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 18, 2017
That last playoff was a memorable one. Tiger Woods, playing on a bad knee that would eventually require reconstructive surgery, sunk a 72nd-hole birdie putt to put him in first place alongside 45-year-old Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines.
Woods ran out to an early lead in the playoff, only to cede that advantage to Mediate, who found himself leading by a single stroke heading into the 18th hole. Woods worked his magic with another last-minute birdie, pressing the action into sudden death at the par-4 7th hole. On the 91st hole of the 2008 U.S. Open, the phenom secured his third Open title — and his last major championship to date — thanks to a Mediate bogey.
If Harman can keep his tremendous pace going, he might not have to worry about spending an extra day at Erin Hills. However, with a competitive field charging quickly, the U.S. Open may be in store for its first playoff in nearly a decade.