What Is The Masters Playoff Format?

We take a look at the playoff format at the Masters in the event of a tie after 72 holes

Adam Scott celebrates following winning putt at the Masters
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Masters is the first Major championship of the season and one of the most prestigious events in the golfing calendar. Unlike the other three Majors, it is played at the same venue each year - Augusta National Golf Club.

The tournament was formed by Bobby Jones after his Grand Slam in 1930, alongside New York investment banker, Clifford Roberts. The pair enlisted renowned architect Alister MacKenzie and the Masters was born. It was first played in 1934 with the first Green Jacket awarded to Sam Snead in 1949; a tradition that is still very much alive today.  

The Masters holds a unique place in the golfing calendar and indeed, the heart of every golfer. It gives a renewed level of optimism ahead of spring and the golfing season, as well the centre stage for the first of four Majors.

As fans begin to consider who might be the tournament favourite, one question seems to consistently pop up - what happens if there is a tie at the top of the leaderboard after the regulation 72 holes? The short answer is, a playoff. 

The Masters Playoff Format

Unlike the Open Championship, US Open and PGA Championship, the Masters adopts a sudden death playoff. That means, after a tie, the lowest score on the playoff hole wins. It is perhaps the rawest method to decide the winner whilst giving consideration to the the fading light in Georgia. 

The first playoff hole is the 18th and should that not determine a winner, players move to the 10th hole. The format repeats this sequence until a winner is crowned.

The 18th and 10th hole at Augusta National run parallel to one another which means the drama can unfold in a relatively small area of the property; as well as in front of the largest number of patrons.

When was the last Masters Playoff?

The last time there was a playoff at the Masters was 2017, when Sergio Garcia defeated Justin Rose for his maiden Major championship. The pair had completed the 72 holes in nine-under-par.

The Spaniard produced a shot that will live long in Masters memory - a long iron that hit the pin on the par five 15th en route to an eagle that put him back into the tournament that was initially slipping away.

The playoff proved to be somewhat anticlimactic after Rose found the trees with his drive. The Englishman was forced to pitch out before making a bogey, whilst Garcia found the green in regulation and needed two putts to win the tournament. He converted the birdie and became the first Spaniard to win at Augusta since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999. 

The win came in Garcia's 19th Masters appearance and 74th Major, the most by any player before their first title.

Sergio Garcia celebrates following winning putt at the Masters

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Who else won in a playoff?

One that is often lost in the history books is the 2005 Masters, where Tiger Woods needed extra holes to defeat Chris DiMarco. After Woods produced the iconic "in your life" chip on the 16th, the American went on to bogey the final two holes and fall back into a tie for the lead. 

This was the first playing of the sudden-death format and it was over before you could say 'Butler Cabin'. Woods buried a 15-foot birdie putt to win his fourth Green Jacket and ninth Major title. It was the second consecutive Major that DiMarco lost in a playoff following his loss in the PGA Championship to Vijay Singh. 

Bubba Watson produced one of the best shots in Masters history during a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen in 2012. After the pair made par on the first playoff hole, Watson hit an errant tee-shot that found the pine straw right of the fairway. From 145-yards and with magnolias hanging above him, Watson hooked a 52-degree gap wedge some 50 yards around the trees that finished no more than 15-feet from the hole. Rickie Fowler famously said: "Bubba was in the wrong place at the right time." The rest is history.  

Adam Scott secured his first Major championship in 2013 when he defeated Angel Cabrera on the second playoff hole. Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters, prompting Ian Baker-Finch to share an iconic line during the live coverage: "From Down-Under to the top of the world."

Bubba Watson impact position during the playoff in 2012 Masters

(Image credit: Getty Images)
James Hibbitt
Writer

James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.