Whether you're an avid golf fan or just getting into the game, keeping track of how playoffs work in different tournaments can be confusing. The PGA Championship playoff format is employed if there are players who are tied at the top of the leaderboard after playing 72 holes.
What is the PGA Championship?
The PGA Championship is the second of the four major tournaments, scheduled for May each year in the U.S. The championship plays at a different course each year. In 2023, the tournament will be played at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. There you'll be able to watch some of the best golfers in the world play, while enjoying amenities like the Chase lounge for Chase Sapphire members.
The PGA Championship began in 1916 and has been played every year since, with just three exceptions— 1917 and 1918 because of World War I, and 1943 because of World War II. The championship is run by the Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA of America). It was originally a 36-hole elimination match-play style tournament but switched to a 72-hole stroke-play format in 1958. But what happens when 72 holes isn't enough to determine a winner?
PGA Championship playoff format
The PGA Championship playoff rules dictate that any players tied at the top of the leaderboard after 72 holes must compete in a playoff to determine a winner. To do this, the tied winners play in a 3-hole aggregate playoff.
The PGA Championship playoff holes differ by course, but generally try to include holes that are easy to access for players and fans. The final of the three holes is usually 18, so that the championship ends back at the clubhouse. These holes are used for both the 3-hole aggregate playoff and the sudden-death playoff.
3-hole aggregate playoff
Golf fans have likely heard mention of an aggregate playoff before—sometimes it's a 2-hole aggregate or a 4-hole aggregate instead of 3 holes. But what is an aggregate playoff in golf?
An aggregate playoff is when players who are tied at the end of regular play continue to play additional holes to determine a winner. In the case of the PGA Championship, the tied players play three holes, and at the end of the round whoever has the lowest score is declared the winner.
What comes after the playoff?
If after the 3-hole aggregate the score is still tied, the remaining tied players will engage in a sudden-death playoff. This means those players will play the same holes as in the aggregate playoffs.
For example, if the championship chooses holes 13, 17 and 18, the first sudden-death round will be played at hole 13. If the score remains tied after hole 13, they move on to hole 17. If it's still tied, it's on to 18. And if after hole 18 there's still no winner, the remaining tied players begin again at 13, playing one hole at a time until someone wins.
The PGA Championship playoff format has changed a few times throughout the years. However, playoffs are relatively uncommon at the tournament. In its more than 100-year history, there have been 19 playoffs at the PGA Championship. Most recently, there was a playoff in 2022 when Justin Thomas beat Will Zalatoris after a 3-hole aggregate playoff.
If you're planning to watch the PGA Championship, you may want to familiarize yourself with the PGA Championship playoff format. That way if there's a tie, you'll know exactly what's coming next — a 3-hole aggregate playoff that could lead to a sudden-death round.
Chase Sapphire is an official partner of the PGA Championship.