Open Championship Playoff Records

When 72 holes haven't been enough at The Open

Open Championship Playoff Records
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A closer look at the Open Championships to have gone to playoffs

Open Championship Playoff Records

With the 147th Open Championship leaderboard becoming clustered, it's hard not to see extra holes being required.

Over the years, there have been 21 playoffs in golf's oldest Major, the most recent one coming in 2015 at St Andrews, where Zach Johnson claimed his second Major title and first Claret Jug.

The very first playoff came in 1876, a time when 36 holes were required to decide the winner - and that year victory went to Bob Martin.

There were three more 36-hole playoffs in the nineteenth century, Harry Vardon winning in 1896, before he claimed another in the twentieth century when he overcame J.H. Taylor in 1911.

Jack Nicklaus won the first 18-hole playoff in 1970, when he beat Doug Sanders by one at St Andrews. Five years later, his great rival Tom Watson beat Jack Newton by one over an extra 18 at Carnoustie.

Open Championship Playoff Records

Jack Nicklaus comes through a playoff to win The Open at St Andrews in 1970 [Getty Images]

Fourteen years later and Royal Troon witnessed one of the most memorable final days in Open history. This was the scene of Mark Calcavecchia's triumph when he got the better of Wayne Grady and Greg Norman. It was Norman who looked destined for an incredible comeback win - having started the day seven shots back - but he eventually ran out of steam.

Eight more four-hole playoffs have followed, including Johnson's win over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in 2015.

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So far as the 147th Open Championship is concerned, three playoffs have been contended at Carnoustie: Watson and Newton (1975), Paul Lawrie, Justin Leonard and Jean Van de Velde (1999), and Padraig Harrington and Sergio Gracia in 2007.

Open Championship Playoff Records

Padraig Harrington gets the better of Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie in 2007 [Getty Images]

The most players to enter an Open playoff was four, at Muirfield in 2002, when Ernie Els overcame Thomas Levet, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington.

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.