Does the PGA Tour play-off system need an overhaul?

The Scoop

In this week's Alternate Shot Tom Irwin and Mark Townsend have a written joust over extra holes in the States

If you’ve been watching the PGA Tour this season then you’ll be familiar with the concept of their play-off system which, generally, involves playing the 18th hole again and again and again.

In this week’s Alternate Shot Tom Irwin and Mark Townsend go head-to-head in trying to find a solution to finding a winner…

Yes, says Tom Irwin

Being unable to complete a golf tournament in the four days that it has been allotted, as happened at Torrey Pines last week, is criminal. Yes, criminal. Fans with tickets to the Sunday or watching at home via expensive sports channel subscriptions pay to see the denouement of the action, and they couldn’t. They didn’t get what they paid for.

I watched, not many did, as Jason Day saluted absolutely no-one, and thought that could well be a portent for the future. If the game does not move to address the ludicrous amount of time the sport takes, then players saluting to no-one may well be what the future looks like, just without the millions of pounds in prize money as comfort.

When Graeme Storm beat Rory McIlroy in South Africa last year I honestly thought I was going mad as I watched the same two players do the same thing, on the same hole three consecutive times. The definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result and this ludicrous play-off system practically ensures exactly that.

Tennis has tie-breaks, football has penalty shoot-outs, Twenty 20 has Golden Overs. Before you scream that they are all unsatisfactory – they are a lot more satisfactory than the event finishing in the dark, or the next day, when all that is enhanced is the agony and the belly button gazing.

Just have an arm wrestle, or a caddie race, or a rules quiz, just something that means there will definitely be a result. Imagine how good a nearest the pin would have been on the stadium hole this weekend?

No, says Mark Townsend

I’m a traditionalist so grew up with a variety of play-offs on Sunday Grandstand or indeed galloping around the likes of Wentworth or Woburn like an excited puppy myself – Paul Way edging out Sandy Lyle at the PGA in 1985 was my idea of utopia, I didn’t mind who lost as I loved both players and, better still, the play-off kept moving from one hole to another.

As time has marched on we’ve fallen into made-for-TV replaying (and parring) of the 18th hole before turning the buggy round and doing it all over again until someone falters or excels.

Remember this at the Sony Open this year?

Sony Open play-off

I couldn’t think of anything worse than some sort of forced conclusion like a chip-off or name as many of the world’s top 50 in one minute but if a re-running of the 18th or any hole hasn’t got the job done then move it to the next available hole and then the next one and, preferably, one where you might get a more likely outcome.

The fans on TV are more likely to stay with it – is there anything more dull than two men repeatedly laying up on a par 5 – and, if you’ve paid money at the gate, then you should be more than happy to get off your backside and line the fairways.

If it’s not done by the time the light falls then come back the next day by all means but at least give yourselves a better chance by setting different challenges (and try and get the players round in less than six hours).

This is what Way had to say about the old 17th at Wentworth: “It was always very intimidating, out of bounds left and, if you miss right, you are struggling to reach in three and there is more out of bounds left short of the green. The camber took you away from the dogleg but I managed to draw one off the tee and then flushed a 1-iron, I probably got a bit of a flier, which scooted down beautifully.”

And then TV and course changes got in the way…

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