SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For years, the U.S. Open was the only one of golf’s four major championships that would be extended into Monday in the event of a tie after 72 holes, with an 18-hole playoff conducted to determine a winner.
However, after much debate, and a large amount of criticism that the U.S. Golf Association’s other stroke-play championships – the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Senior Open – finished on Sunday with shorter playoffs to break the tie, golf’s ruling body changed the rules last February for the U.S. Open.
The 118th U.S. Open championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club now will be decided, in the event of a tie after the final round, with a two-hole aggregate-score playoff covering the course’s 180-yard, par-3 17th hole and the 485-yard, par-4 18th hole.
Mike Davis, the USGA’s chief executive officer, said Monday that the association talked to the event’s stakeholders – players, fans, television partners and vendors – and determined that “people wanted the U.S. Open to finish Sunday,” adding, “wouldn’t say it was unanimous.
“I would tell you,” Davis said at the Open’s championship preview, “that sitting up here sometimes when somebody raises their hand and says, ‘Can you explain why the U.S. Women’s Open, the biggest, most important event in women’s golf on the planet, [decides] your ties by three holes aggregate there, but you do an 18-hole [playoff] at the U.S. Open?’ Pretty hard to answer that question.”
Davis said a number of playoff possibilities were discussed, including sudden death or a three-hole playoff or four-hole playoff decided by total score. He said the Senior Open once had a four-hole playoff but that it seemed “to take a little too much time, and sometimes it got to the last hole and it was already over.”
But the USGA decided to implement a two-hole playoff effective this year for all four of its stroke-play championships: the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
“So we thought that by having two holes, that there would be more excitement but it wouldn’t necessarily be one shot and over,” Davis said.
The last 18-hole playoff in the U.S. Open came in 2008 when Tiger Woods, playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and two stress fractures of the left tibia, defeated Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines near San Diego. That playoff was extended one sudden-death hole after the two players remained tied after 18.
The Open will welcome back Woods this year for the first time since 2015. It will be his 20th U.S. Open competition, fourth-most among those in the field. Three of his 14 major championships have come at the U.S. Open.
Shinnecock Hills, which hosted the second U.S. Open in 1896, is holding the Open for the fourth time since 1986. The course will play 7,445 yards, nearly 450 yards longer than it did the last time the club hosted the Open in 2004. There are 10 new teeing grounds that will provide much of the added length.