U.S. Open playoff format, explained: Extra holes rules for 2024 and how tiebreaker works in golf

There can only be one winner at the U.S. Open. 

It’s not uncommon for multiple golfers to finish a tournament with the same score, though. It’s a game that can quite literally come down to a single stroke over the course of 72 holes. If there’s a tie at the conclusion of the final round, then a playoff decides the trophy recipient. 

The way playoffs work in golf varies from course to course, event to event. When it comes to the U.S. Open, there have been some changes made over the years. 

Here’s what you need to know about the U.S. Open playoff format and how a winner could potentially be decided by a playoff at the major. 

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U.S. Open playoff format 2024

If two or more golfers remain tied after 72 holes at the U.S. Open, then a playoff is utilized to determine the tournament’s winner. 

The current playoff format for the U.S. involves the tied participants playing a two-hole aggregate playoff. For example, if one player shoots even for two holes, but the other player (or players) shoots a +2, then the player who shot for par will win the tournament.

How extra holes work in golf

Depending on the tournament, there are typically two different types of extra holes and playoff formats.

— Aggregate: This is less common. Select holes are picked after 72 holes have concluded. Some tournaments have two-hole aggregate score, while others have three. Some golf major tournaments use this format, including the PGA Championship, U.S. Open. and Open Championship.

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— Sudden death: Some PGA Tour events feature a sudden death format — first player to win a hole, wins. The holes are decided depending on the tournament.

U.S. Open playoff rule change

The format of the extra holes has changed from the past. The U.S. Open was famously known for implementing an 18-hole playoff round the next day to decide the victor. Tiger Woods notably won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, needing 19 extra holes to defeat Rocco Mediate. 

That idea was scrapped in 2018. 

“There was a time when they (playoff rounds) did make sense before television, before the modern era of wanting everything decided immediately,” former USGA CEO Mike Davis said. “There is no correct way to determine a tie in stroke play. … I won’t say it was everybody, but seemingly it was, ‘Why do we have to come back tomorrow?’”

U.S. Open playoff history

Here’s the complete history of playoff wins at the U.S. Open over the event’s history. 

Year Winner Runner(s) up
2008 Tiger Woods Rocco Mediate
2001 Retief Goosen Mark Brooks
1994 Ernie Els Colin Montgomerie, Loren Roberts
1991 Payne Stewart Scott Simpson
1990 Hale Irwin Mike Donald
1988 Curtis Strange Nick Faldo
1984 Fuzzy Zoeller Greg Norman
1975 Lou Graham John Mahaffey
1971 Lee Trevino Jack Nicklaus
1966 Billy Casper Arnold Palmer
1965 Gary Player Kel Nagle
1963 Julius Boros Jacky Cupit, Arnold Palmer
1962 Jack Nicklaus Arnold Palmer
1957 Dick Mayer Cary Middlecoff
1955 Jack Fleck Ben Hogan
1950 Ben Hogan Lloyd Mangrum, George Fazio
1947 Lew Worsham Sam Snead
1946 Lloyd Mangrum Vic Ghezzi, Byron Nelson
1940 Lawson Little Gene Sarazen
1939 Byron Nelson Craig Wood, Denny Shute
1931 Billy Burke George Von Elm
1930 Bobby Jones Macdonald Smith
1929 Bobby Jones Al Espinosa
1928 Johnny Farrell Bobby Jones
1927 Tommy Armour Harry Cooper
1925 Willie Macfarlane Bobby Jones
1923 Bobby Jones Bobby Cruickshank
1919 Walter Hagen Mike Brady
1913 Francis Ouimet Harry Vardon, Ted Ray
1911 John McDermott Mike Brady, George Simpson
1910 Alex Smith John McDermott, Macdonald Smith
1908 Fred McLeod Willie Smith
1903 Willie Anderson David Brown
1901 Willie Anderson David Brown
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