USGAs Antiquated 18-hole Payoff Needs to Go

By Associated PressJuly 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
USGANEWPORT, R.I. -- Annika Sorenstam was so tired from playing 54 holes in two days that she took Tuesday off after winning the U.S. Women's Open. Pat Hurst was exhausted before she got to the first tee for the 18-hole playoff, and that was after a night of rest.
 
Imagine how Billy Burke and George Von Elm must have felt.

It was 75 years ago when they engaged in the longest playoff in golf history at the 1931 U.S. Open. They were tied after 72 holes of regulation, the final 36 holes in one day. There was a 36-hole playoff the next day, and both men shot 7-over 149. So they came back a fifth day for 36 more holes, and Burke shot 148 to win by a single shot at Inverness.
 
By comparison, Sorenstam got off easy.
 
The USGA is the only golf organization that still believes an 18-hole playoff is the fairest measure of a champion.
 
But if that's such a fair test, why did it ever change from 36 holes?
 
And what keeps the USGA from getting with the times and changing to a four-hole playoff (British Open), a three-hole playoff (PGA Championship) or a sudden-death playoff (Masters)?
 
Not even the winner at Newport Country Club liked the idea of 18 holes.
 
'I think maybe a three-hole playoff would have been a little better, especially when all the excitement and adrenaline was there last night with all the people,' Sorenstam said.
 
Turns out she only needed one hole, anyway. Sorenstam hit sand wedge that spun back to 6 feet for birdie on the opening hole, Hurst three-putted for bogey, and everyone was asking about a mercy rule the rest of the morning.
 
'You work so hard, and then we leave Sunday and we still don't know who won,' Sorenstam said. 'It's kind of funny how that all works out. It makes for a long week, that's for sure. You would think that you could determine a winner within 75 holes.'
 
Hurst offered either a three-hole or a six-hole solution.
 
Strangely enough, everyone wondered whether Hurst had the stamina to keep up with Sorenstam over 36 holes on a sun-baked afternoon at Newport, with only about 25 minutes to grab lunch between the third and fourth rounds. A 37-year-old mother of two, Hurst is more likely to be found at McDonald's than Gold's Gym.
 
But fitness wasn't an issue Sunday.
 
Hurst sat on her bag during long waits in the five-plus hour rounds, but her game was superb. She matched Sorenstam shot for shot over 36 holes, playing her best golf -- a final-round 69, matching the lowest score of the tournament -- as the day wore on.
 
What killed her was getting some rest before the Monday playoff.
 
'The competitive juices weren't flowing as much as they were yesterday,' Hurst said. 'You're in the moment. I felt like I lost a little bit coming back out the next day. I wasn't into it as much as I was into it yesterday.'
 
And those are just the players.
 
The atmosphere was dull Monday morning. Instead of 20,000 people crammed into the bleachers and packed behind the ropes, there were about 800 people at most to watch the start of the playoff, a number that swelled only slightly.
 
The USGA said 4,655 people showed up Monday, but some were eating lunch on picnic tables by the entrance, enjoying a summer afternoon in Rhode Island, waiting for a winner who could have been crowned the night before.
 
Volunteers who could have been sailing or sunning returned to Newport to hold ropes and post scores and drive shuttles. The playoff was televised by ESPN -- Johnny Miller and Roger Maltbie didn't bother returning -- and the network probably wished it could have dumped this off on The Golf Channel after Sorenstam led by three shots after three holes, and five shots at the turn.
 
Hurst and Sorenstam played 36 holes Sunday. Why did they need 18 more on Monday?
 
And if sudden-death is such a sham, why does the USGA use that in case of a tie after the 18-hole playoff? Why get away from the marathon match 75 years ago between Burke and Von Elm?
 
The other organizations wised up.
 
The Royal & Ancient gave up on the 36-hole playoff in time for Jack Nicklaus to beat Doug Sanders over 18 holes (72-73) in 1970 at St. Andrews. Then the R&A really went outside the box, introducing a four-hole aggregate playoff in 1989, won by Mark Calcavecchia at Royal Troon. Were they lesser champions because they didn't play 36 holes?
 
One could argue that Greg Norman might have won in 1989 if he had 18 holes instead of four, but an argument could be made just as easily that the Shark still would have found calamity waiting for him at the end.
 
The PGA Championship used to have an 18-hole playoff after it changed to stroke play in 1958, and it was the first of the men's majors to switch to sudden-death in 1977 when Lanny Wadkins won at Pebble Beach. Then it copied the R&A by going to a three-hole playoff in 2000, when Tiger Woods defeated Bob May.
 
The Masters switched to a sudden-death playoff and is sticking to it, although wouldn't it be sweet to see a three-hole playoff over Amen Corner -- a par 4, par 3 and a par 5?
 
As for those who believe anything but 18-hole playoffs can produce fluke champions, explain Jack Fleck beating Ben Hogan in 1955 at The Olympic Club.
 
There's no reason for the USGA not to change, especially since it has gone from an 18-hole playoff to a 36-hole playoff to an 18-hole playoff during its 111 years of championship golf.
 
And there's nothing in the Rules of Golf that spells out how to crown a champion.
 
Only that the lowest score wins.
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.