US Open abandons 18-hole playoff

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The USGA has announced that the U.S. Open is abandoning it's 18-hole playoff set up in favour of a two-hole aggregate playoff, effective immediately.

There have been 33 18-hole playoffs in the history of the US Open's 117 years, but one hasn't been needed since Tiger Woods' famous victory over Rocco Mediate on the first sudden-death hole in 2008. The site of his 14th major.

And now, the U.S Golf Association has decided that 18 holes is simply too long, meaning the US Open will become the final major to abandon the long-form playoff and like the Masters, the Open and the US PGA, will now finish on a Sunday. 

The change is to take effect immediately and will be used at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island in June if there is a tie after 72 holes of regulation play. The USGA has also decided to make its other three open champions two-hole playoffs — the U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Senior Women's Open.

"There was a time when they did make sense before television, before the modern era of wanting everything decided immediately," said Mike Davis, chief executive of the USGA. "There is no correct way to determine a tie in stroke play."

Davis said many players, broadcaster partners, and fans had questioned him about ending the 18-hole playoff, and said that the USGA chose a two-hole playoff to allow a player to recover from one bad shot and still keep the intensity of the playoff being decided quickly. 

"This came up about two months ago," Davis said. "We've had 33 playoffs since 1895. Do your math and that's one every 3 ½ years. For the last 23 years, we've had two playoffs. So it was proactive."

"I won't say it was everybody, but seemingly it was, 'Why do we have to come back tomorrow?'"

Stewart Cink, who won the British Open at Turnberry in 2009 over Tom Watson, liked the idea of scrapping the 18-hole playoff.

"I think 18 holes is a bit much for a playoff, and it's more often than not going to be a bit anticlimactic," he said. "They've got the captive audiences, the players are at the peak of their games, why not let them duke it out? They've got plenty of daylight. Whether it's two, three or four holes doesn't matter. I do not like the sudden-death aspect of the major. I think one hole is a little quick to decide a major."

The USGA also felt the three-hole aggregate playoffs for the U.S. Women's Open — instituted after Annika Sorenstam beat Pat Hurst in 18 holes at Newport Country Club in 2006 — and the U.S. Senior Open worked well, particularly because Davis said he was having a hard time explaining the difference in play-off lengths. 

"That got us to say, 'Let's look at every aspect.' We just concluded now is the right time," Davis said.

Davis said the two-hole aggregate would be different holes, but not limited to the 17th and 18th holes depending on the course. In the case of this year's US Open at Shinnecock Hills, playing the 17th and 18th would mean a par 3 and a par 4.