How is the winner of golf's second oldest major trophy determined if any players are level through 72 holes?

If two or more players are tied after 72 holes, they will need to play extra holes to determine the winner. So what is the US Open playoff format?

A history of the US Open playoff format

The US Open’s original format involved the players returning for an 18-hole playoff which would repeat until a winner was determined.

In 1925, Willie MacFarlane needed 108 holes to finally see off Bobby Jones by a single stroke. Then, in 1939, Denny Shute was eliminated after 18 extra holes, but Byron Nelson and Craig Wood could not be separated, and on they went, with Nelson eventually winning by three.

Nelson found himself in another 36-hole playoff in 1946 when, after a four-year hiatus due to World War II, he and Vic Ghezzi were beaten by a single stroke by Lloyd Mangrum.

In 1931, a full 36-hole playoff was in play. So when Billy Burke and George Von Elm still couldn’t be separated they returned for another 36. In the end, after 144 holes of golf, Burke won by a single stroke.

Then, in the 1950s, that all changed. If any players still couldn’t be separated after 90 holes, they would advance to a sudden-death situation until a winner was determined.

Sudden death has, to date, been needed on three occasions – in 1990 when Hale Irwin saw off Mike Donald, in 1994 when Ernie Els edged out Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts, and 2008 when Tiger Woods saw off Rocco Mediate in that famous victory at Torrey Pines.

US Open playoff format

What is the current format?

After consultation with fans and players alike, the 18 holes scenario was scrapped and, in 2018, the system was changed to a two-hole aggregate playoff.

This takes place as soon as the final players, who are in a tie for the lead, finish their fourth round.

The player with the lowest score after the two holes is the winner. If the players still can’t be separated then they play sudden death format until a winner can be determined.

To date, the current format is yet to be required.

How many US Opens have gone to a playoff?

The US Open has been decided via a playoff on 33 occasions. They are…

1901: Willie Anderson defeated Alex Smith
1903: Willie Anderson defeated David Brown
1908: Fred McLeod defeated Willie Smith
1910: Alex Smith defeated John McDermott and Macdonald Smith
1911: John McDermott defeated Mike Brady and George Simpson
1913: Francis Ouimet defeated Harry Vardon and Ted Ray
1919: Walter Hagen defeated Mike Brady
1923: Bobby Jones defeated Bobby Cruickshank
1925: Willie MacFarlane defeated Bobby Jones
1927: Tommy Armour defeated Harry Cooper
1928: Johnny Farrell defeated Bobby Jones
1929: Bobby Jones defeated Al Espinosa
1931: Billy Burke defeated George Von Elm
1939: Byron Nelson defeated Craig Wood and Denny Shute
1940: Lawson Little defeated Gene Sarazen
1946: Lloyd Mangrum defeated Vic Ghezzi and Byron Nelson
1947: Lew Worsham defeated Sam Snead
1950: Ben Hogan defeated Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio
1955: Jack Fleck defeated Ben Hogan
1957: Dick Mayer defeated Cary Middlecoff
1962: Jack Nicklaus defeated Arnold Palmer
1963: Julius Boros defeated Jacky Cupit and Arnold Palmer
1965: Gary Player defeated Kel Nagle
1966: Billy Casper defeated Arnold Palmer
1971: Lee Trevino defeated Jack Nicklaus
1975: Lou Graham defeated John Mahaffey
1984: Fuzzy Zoeller defeated Greg Norman
1988: Curtis Strange defeated Nick Faldo
1990: Hale Irwin defeated Mike Donald
1991: Payne Stewart defeated Scott Simpson
1994: Ernie Els defeated Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts
2001: Retief Goosen defeated Mark Brooks
2008: Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate

RELATED: How to qualify for the US Open

Follow NCG on Twitter!

us open playoff format

NCG info

NCG information services provide everything you need from leaderboards and prize money breakdowns to TV schedules weather forecasts.

Group bookings of four or more golfers receive 10% OFF our NCG Top 100s Tour events

VIEW EVENTS

Subscribe to NCG