The Masters playoff format is different to all the other Majors in that it is the only one that is sudden death...
What Is The Masters Playoff Format?
What is the the Masters playoff format if, after the regulation 72 holes, we have a tie at the top of the leaderboard?
The answer quite simply is a sudden-death playoff that takes place on the 18th and 10th holes. Those tied at the top will play 18 then 10 and so on until a clear winner emerges.
The most recent playoff was in 2017 between Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. A stellar back-nine charge from the Spaniard, including a sublime eagle at the 15th, meant they tied on nine-under-par. The playoff itself turned out to be a bit anti-climactic, with Rose slicing his drive into the trees on the 18th and needing to waste a shot chipping out.
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Whereas Sergio played the hole perfectly, with a brilliant birdie to pick up his first Major at the 74th time of asking.
In 2013, Adam Scott became the first Australian to don the Green Jacket after defeating Angel Cabrera with a birdie at the 10th.
The 10th and 18th holes are chosen because of their close proximity to each other and the clubhouse.
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Running side-by-side (and playing up and down the same steep hill), these holes allow the action to unfold in a relatively small space but in front of the largest possible number of fans.
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You may remember a number of playoffs finishing on the 11th hole – Nick Faldo twice won the Masters on the 11th hole and Larry Mize’s chip-in is one of the tournament’s greatest moments.
Before the change in 2004, players started the sudden-death playoff on the 10th hole and simply played the back nine until there was a winner.
The Masters is the only Major that employs a sudden-death playoff.
In the event of a tie at the US Open, a two-hole aggregate playoff is now in force. Players used to have to return for an 18-hole strokeplay shoot-out the following day.
This format was often criticised as golf fans watching both on TV and at the venue itself must return the following day, with the drama of the previous evening often being lost.
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Moreover, if one player takes a commanding lead early in the shoot-out round, it can be less than exciting.
That being said, The Masters on one occasion had a 36-hole playoff. Way back in 1935, between Gene Sarazen and Craig Wood, both players returned on Monday to play. Of course this tournament is best remembered for ‘the shot heard around the world’ on the 15th hole, and the playoff turned out to be damp squib, with Sarazen winning by five strokes.
The Masters also had 18-hole playoffs in 1942, 1954, 1962, 1966, and finally in 1970.
The first playoff with the new sudden death format, was in 1979 between Fuzzy Zoeller, Ed Sneed and Tom Watson. Zoeller, in his first Masters, won with a birdie on the 11th.
As mentioned above, the Masters is the only Major to use this sudden-death format.
Whereas at both the Open and USPGA, playoffs are stroke-play formats but take place over a fewer number of holes (four at The Open and three at the USPGA).
This strikes a fair balance between allowing the Sunday crowd to stay and watch the action whilst also ensuring the players themselves will not necessarily lose the title with a single errant shot.
The main problem that prevents the Masters committee from opting for this reduced holes format is daylight.
By the end of the regular 72 holes at Augusta there is limited sunlight left. If the playoff pits two or more competitors against each other without a winner emerging within the first few holes, there is a danger that darkness will cause the event to be concluded on the Monday.
With potential for only one hole being required to split the tied players, it is likely that crowd numbers within the course would see a dramatic drop off if the event went into a fifth day.