The U.S. Open, which bills itself as America’s preeminent major, has also boasted America’s preeminent playoff method: a full 18-hole showdown between whichever players had the lowest score after four days. Thirty-three times in the Open’s 117 years, the tournament has gone to an 18-hole playoff, most recently 10 years ago when Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines.
No more! As of February of this year, the USGA, the Open’s governing body, decided to switch to a two-hole playoff, the last of the four majors to do so. And the announcement came as a surprise to at least one player who might be impacted: Jordan Spieth.
Jordan Spieth didn't know the USGA changed the 18-hole playoff to a two-hole aggregate.
"I was even looking at a weather forecast for Monday."
— Josh Berhow (@Josh_Berhow) June 12, 2018
While a Monday finish is a possibility, it’s not a huge likelihood; weather complying, the champion ought to be crowned on Sunday evening.
Switching over from an 18-hole playoff to a quicker one might offend the purists, but the new reality of television and the expectation of an immediate resolution made the full-round rule anachronistic. With all due respect to the many fine players in the field, a Monday playoff between low-ranked players who had the best tournament of their lives would not exactly draw in waves of viewers.
“There was a time when they did make sense before television, before the modern era of wanting everything decided immediately,” Mike Davis, chief executive of the USGA, said in announcing the rule back in February. “There is no correct way to determine a tie in stroke play.”
Of course, there was a time that the U.S. Open had a 36-hole playoff, but that hasn’t happened since 1931. So now we’re on a shot clock, which is probably the best for all involved.
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