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The playoffs are, hands down, one of the best parts about watching golf tournaments. It’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Seeking this exciting rush, we’ve decided to go over the top formats and the longest playoff holes in the history of golf tournaments. Let’s dig in!
What Are the Most Playoff Holes in Golf?
So, playoffs are the standard way to break off a tie in golf tournaments. That much we know, but have you ever wondered how those holes are actually chosen?
Hole 18 is one of the most common spots for the playoffs. However, each tournament gets to decide what format the contestants will follow in case of a tie.
It could be a loop between 2-4 holes or just one on repeat. Sometimes it even changes with the course and the logistics of having to shift the spectators around.
Before we move on to the longest playoffs, let’s take a look at the top playoff hole formats in golf tournaments:
- Masters Augusta Nationals alternate holes 10 and 18 for the playoffs
- TPC Sawgrass requires a Gauntlet format with holes 16, 17, and 18
- Southern Hills PGA aggregates holes 13, 17, and 18, then moves to an 18-13-17-18 format
What Is the Longest Playoff Holes Record in Golf Tournaments?
The most playoff holes in golf was a 36 hole playoff between Billy Burke and Von Elm in 1931 at the 35th US Open Tournament.
Today, most tournaments settle for a maximum of 18 playoffs only, and then, you’d move on to sudden death.
However, back in the day, it was common to have longer playoff formats. So, don’t be surprised to see that the top records on this list are a bit old.
Let’s take a closer look at the some of those length playoffs:
We can’t talk about record-breaking playoffs and not mention the 35th US Open tournament game. The regulation play went back and forth for 72 holes between Billy Burke and Von Elm.
Interestingly enough, this was Burke’s only major title throughout his career. He did come close to a Masters championship in 1934 and 1938, though.
All in all, he had 11 career wins that are considered official tour wins by the PGA. Notably, Billy Burke was the first to grab a US Open championship with steel-shafted clubs!
Vic Ghezzi competed against Byron Nelson in the 24th PGA final match back in 1941, and it took him 38 holes to win the game.
Right before the 38th playoff, they had both chipped exactly three feet and had to flip a coin over who putts. Nelson went first and missed.
This game broke Nelson’s winning streak over three successive matches. On the other hand, it awarded Ghezzi his only major title, so it was probably an unforgettable moment for both golfers!
According to ESPN, the PGA format shifted from match play in favor of stroke play in 1958 and later on to sudden death in 1977.
The 1946 Canterbury US Open Took 36 Holes to Break a Three-Way Tie
While we’re used to seeing playoffs between two golfers, it’s still possible for multiple competitors. In fact, it only makes it all the more interesting!
This was the case with Lloyd Mangrum, Vic Ghezzi, and Byron Nelson in the 1946 US Open held at the Canterbury Golf Club.
After the first round of playoffs, the three golfers were still tied and had to go through yet another 18-hole round. In the end, Mangrum came on top after 36 playoff holes in total.
The 1998 Women’s US Open Went to a 20-Hole Playoff
Even though it took Se Ri Pak two more holes over the 18-playoff format, she finally defeated Jenny Chuasiriporn with a birdie at hole number 11.
According to the LPGA or the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the victory made her the youngest to win the title, at only 20 years old. From there on, the rookie golfer made a successful career with the LPGA.
Pak wasn’t the first to need two extra holes after the main 18 playoffs, though. Four years earlier, the US Open at Oakmont between Ernie Els, Loren Roberts, and Colin Montgomerie also took 20 playoff holes, according to CBS.
The 2008 US Open Playoff Ended on 19 Playoff Holes
After a total of 19 holes, Tiger Woods managed to defeat Rocco Mediate after a tension-filled game.
According to ESPN, Woods had an Achilles tendon injury around December that year and a damaged ACL in June. That’s why he had to end his season right after the game.
Watching the match on PGA’s Youtube Channel with this in mind will definitely give you an idea of how resilient Woods actually is!
Although it was quite an impressive feat, it wasn’t the first of its kind. Hale Irwin’s victory over Mike Donald back in the 1990 tournament also ended after 18 playoffs and one extra hole, according to the New York Times.
How many golfers can make the playoffs in the same match?
Any number of golfers who tie after 72 holes will be pushed onto the playoffs. The record is six players, and you can watch the whole thing to see how dynamic it makes the game!
What is the most PGA sudden death holes record?
Lloyd Mangrum and Cary Middlecoff hold the longest sudden-death record at 11 holes in the 1949 PGA Motor City Open.
What happens in the case of a golf tournament tie?
If the players run out of playoff rounds without breaking the tie, they tend to split the prize money among them. This was the case with Mangrum and Middlecoff, according to Fox Sports.
The playoff hole numbers and formats might differ from one tournament to the other, but it doesn’t take away from the anticipation in the air one bit.
All in all, the longest playoffs are from older tournaments. Something as impressive as the Billy Burke vs. Von Elm match — with a 72-hole playoff — held the suspense for a record-breaking length!