The Masters Tournament is all about tradition – the green jacket and the Champions Dinner come to mind – but there is one aspect where the tournament abandons its old-school feel: playoffs.
If the tournament ends in a tie today, a sudden-death format will decide the winner.
The Masters is the only major that employs sudden death to determine a winner in the event of a tie. Sudden-death playoffs used to begin at No. 10, but now the Masters starts them on No. 18.
Though some purists might prefer a longer format, it’s hard to deny the drama that has accompanied some of the sudden-death playoffs.
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2022 Masters playoff format
In 2004, the format was changed to begin at No. 18, move on to No. 10 if necessary and alternate between the holes until a winner is determined.
Masters playoff history
1935: 36-hole playoff between Gene Sarazen and Craig Wood
1942: 18-hole playoff between Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan
1954: 18-hole playoff between Sam Snead and Ben Hogan
1962: 18-hole playoff between Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Dow Finsterwald
1966: 18-hole playoff between Jack Nicklaus, Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer
1970: 18-hole playoff between Billy Casper and Gene Littler
Sudden death playoff
1979: Fuzzy Zoeller, Ed Sneed and Tom Watson
1982: Craig Stadler and Dan Pohl
1987: Larry Mize, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman
1989: Nick Faldo and Scott Hoch
1990: Nick Faldo and Raymond Floyd
2003: Mike Weir and Len Mattiace
2005: Tiger Woods and Chris DiMarco
2009: Angel Cabrera, Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell
2012: Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen
2013: Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera
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Playoff formats for the other major golf tournaments
US Open playoff format
The US Open remains the only major championship that uses an 18-hole format to break ties. The oldest American major briefly used a 36-hole format but reverted to the 18-hole format in the late 1930s. Ties after 18 holes were then followed by another 18, but since 1990, sudden-death has determined playoff winners in the case of another tie.
British Open playoff format
Golf’s oldest major championship now uses an aggregate-score three-hole playoff if golfers are tied at the end of regulation. The new format was first used in 2019. Previously, British Open playoffs were 36 holes until 1964, then changed to 18 holes until 1986, and to a four-hole playoff in 1989.
PGA Championship playoff format
The PGA changed from match play to stroke play in 1958, and it used an 18-hole playoff to settle ties after 72 holes. The PGA of America decided after its 1976 tournament that it would use the sudden-death format, and in the late 1990s switched to an aggregate three-hole format for its playoffs.