What Is the PGA Championship Playoff Format?

Flags are seen near the range during a practice round prior to the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on August 10, 2015
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So: If, when all the golfers at the PGA Championship have completed 72 holes of play, there are two (or more) golfers tied for the lead, how do they break the tie? Those golfers advance into a playoff.

And the current PGA Championship playoff format works like this:

  • The playoff is 3 holes;
  • It is aggregate stroke play (cumulative scoring, in other words);
  • The golfer with the low total score after three holes wins the playoff and the tournament.

    But What If They Are Still Tied?

    What if, after that 3-hole, aggregate-score playoff finishes, two or more golfers are still tied?

    • If two or more players remain tied following the 3-hole playoff, those players continue hole-by-hole (sudden death) until a winner is determined.

    Any golfers in the 3-hole playoff who are not tied drop out after the three holes. If there are three golfers in the playoff, for example, and two remain tied following three holes while the third is a stroke behind, that third golfer is eliminated. The two who are tied continue into sudden-death.

    Changes Over the Years to the PGA Championship Playoff Format

    The current playoff format was first used at the 2000 PGA Championship, where Tiger Woods beat Bob May in a 3-hole playoff.

    Prior to adopting the current format, and during the tournament's stroke play era, the PGA of America first used an 18-hole playoff. Any golfers tied for the lead following 72 holes returned the following day and played another full 18 holes of golf.

    The 18-hole playoff was last used at the 1967 PGA Championship, where Don January defeated Don Massengale for the trophy.

    The PGA of America then switched to a sudden-death playoff format. And the first sudden-death playoff in a PGA Championship - which happened at the 1977 PGA - wasn't just the first of that format in this tournament, but in any of the four professional majors.

    Lanny Wadkins defeated Gene Littler on the third hole.

    The sudden-death format was last used at the 1996 PGA Championship, where Mark Brooks beat Kenny Perry on the first extra hole. After that, the PGA switched to the playoff format still in use today: 3 holes, aggregate scoring.

    What About During the Match Play Era?

    Remember that the PGA Championship began as a match play tournament. The match play era lasted from 1916 through 1957. What was the playoff format during that time?

    It was simply the typical match play scenario: The two golfers in the championship match (which lasted 36 holes) who were all square after 36 holes just kept playing more holes until one of them won a hole. The first golfer to win one of those "extra holes" won the match and the tournament.