The British Open Playoff Format

Used in the Event of Ties at the End of Regulation Play

settings 144th Open Championship - Final Round
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At the British Open, there are occasionally times when golfers tie for the lowest score at the end of regulation play which results in a playoff that immediately follows the regular game's conclusion and is four holes in length, measured by an aggregate score to determine the winner; however, if the participating golfers are still tied after the four-hole playoff, they continue in a sudden-death format where the first to win a hole wins the playoff and tournament.

The four-hole, aggregate score playoff format was first used at the 1989 British Open, where Mark Calcavecchia defeated Wayne Grady and Greg Norman in the final round of the tournament, but before that, an 18-hole playoff was employed twice in 1970 and 1975 and once before a tournament used a 36-hole playoff to determine the winner!

Prior to that, an 18-hole playoff was employed twice, in 1970 and 1975, and earlier than that, the tournament used a 36-hole playoff.

Other British Opens With Playoffs Through History

British Open Playoffs have occurred only a handful of times through the history of the tournament, at least in the sense of the four-hole playoff as is used today, the latest of which took place at the 2015 British Open between Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, and Marc Leishman, with Johnson taking a 1-shot lead over Oosthuizen taking a one-shot lead over Oosthuizen at 15 total strokes.

Before that, Tom Watson and Stewart Cink faced off at the 2009 British Open, with Cink beating out 59-year-old Watson by 6 strokes. Oddly enough, Watson had taken place in another British Open playoff in 1975, winning the 18-hole playoff.

At the 2007 British Open, Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia faced off after both suffering terrible last rounds during the 72-hole regulation play. Harrington, who had been behind most of the tournament, beat Harrington by a single stroke, and at the 2004 British Open, Ernie Els came up one put short of Tom Hamilton's 15-stroke four-hole playoff. 

In 2002, Els faced off against Thomas Levet, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington, tied with Levet at 16 strokes, then beat him in the sudden death hole that followed — this was the first and only sudden death round that's occurred at the British Open. 1999, 1998 and 1995 British Opens all also featured playoffs, but each of those was won by Paul Lawrie, Mark O'Meara, and John Daly, respectively.