Tour Talk – Playoff Format Change For The Players?

Lots of buzz of late about the professional golf tours. I want to weigh in on just one topic today.

The Players certainly had a compelling finishing day, notably for the weather and the win by Sergio Garcia but also for the the playoff format that had the world on edge. The island green 17th gathered Paul Goydos among it’s all-time victims as his tee shot failed to find the lonely putting surface in the sudden death format. While some golf fans are in favor of the sudden death playoff commencing on that hole, a large portion are not.

Henry Hughes, the incoming CEO of The Players said that the criticism conveyed by fans and players is unlikely to change the playoff rotation. “The 17th hole is an integral part of The Players Championship, and arguably the most recognizable and exciting hole in the game,” Hughes said. “We did it for the excitement factor. We think the fans like to see it contested there.”

While it’s fine for Hughes to say that I think he fails to recognize the direction the PGA Tour has been taking this tournament and how they will not want to trip up the path to making it a “major” type championship. Tim Finchem, and Deane Beaman before him, pushed to make this golf’s “5th major” and I can’t imagine they will let a ‘mickey-mouse’ playoff format hinder that assertion.

While playoffs have been rare at The Players, the 2008 dual between Garcia and Goydos got far more negative attention than the tour wanted. The criticism might not have been as strong if both pros had reached the surface at 17 or if the wind had not been blowing as hard – but they didn’t and it was.

According to a few of my sources the possibility of a similar re-occurrence may be thwarted as soon as 2009, despite Hughes’ assertions.

Each for the four majors uses their own playoff format (sudden death for Augusta (where there are no island greens), 18 holes at the U.S. Open, a three hole aggregate at the PGA Championship, and a four hole aggregate at The Open Championship. They suitably identify a proper champion. Having sudden death at a course with so many watery graves like TPC at Sawgrass just does not seem to make sense. Apparently there is a camp within the PGA Tour that agrees.

Well placed sources say that a three-hole aggregate playoff might be in the works for The Players, with eligible combatants tipping it up on holes 16-18 with the low total score determining the winner.

It seems only right that such a playoff format would be adopted. With Tim Finchem wanting to leave his legacy it is hard to believe that he will not veto Hughes’ enthusiasm for the 17th hole sudden death playoff.

I am sure he would find that a lot of golf fans would find that possibility not only one that is still just as exciting but truly befitting what The Players is purported to be – a tournament of a championship level.