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PGA Championship playoff format and rules: 3-hole aggregate possible at Quail Hollow

It would be played on the 10th, 17th, and 18th holes.

PGA Championship - Round Two Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The PGA Championship uses a three-hole aggregate playoff to break any ties atop the leaderboard after 72 holes. If two or more players are knotted, they’ll replay holes No. 10, 17, and 18. If the score is still even after that, a sudden-death playoff begins on No. 18. It continues on the 10th, 17th, and 18th, until someone has finally won a hole. Whoever comes out on top takes the Wanamaker Trophy and the championship. A playoff is certainly possible, wirh several players sitting within just a few shots of leader Justin Thomas

The three-hole aggregate format puts the PGA somewhere in the middle of the sports four majors. The U.S. Open is the longest slot, mandating an 18-hole playoff on Monday if players are tied after Sunday. The Masters is the shortest, with an immediate sudden-death competition on Sunday. The Open Championship uses a four-hole aggregate playoff. So the PGA’s answer is neither all that short nor all that long.

It’s a good way to decide a championship. A sudden-death playoff, while nominally fair, can be an awfully cruel and random way to decide a championship that’s gone on for four days. An 18-hole match, like at the U.S. Open, is so long that it threatens to get viewers to tune out. Major Sundays are better than major Mondays. But the way the PGA and The Open do it, there’s a happy middle ground: not too long, not too volatile.

The PGA previously used an 18-hole playoff a la the U.S. Open, but it abandoned that setup after the 1976 championship. It then went to a sudden-death look, and the next three tournaments were decided in that fashion. The tournament later cut that down to the three-hole decider that it still uses today.

This tournament hasn’t required a playoff since 2010, when Martin Kaymer edged Bubba Watson at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. That’s actually been the site of the last two PGA Championship playoffs, with Vijay Singh’s win over Chris DiMarco and Justin Leonard coming in 2004. The last non-Whistling Straits PGA Championship playoff was in 2000, when Tiger Woods bested Bob May at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky.