What Is The Longest Sudden Death Playoff In Golf?

A sudden-death playoff takes place in the occurrence of a tie to determine who wins at the end of a match or competition. This is usually offered by means of an extra hole, or holes until there is one definite winner. If you’ve ever watched a professional golf tournament, then you’ll know how these can sometimes be an agonizing experience. 

Two of the most common sudden-death playoffs include a second game and an aggregate golf playoff. A second game usually happens during the US Open Tournament whereby players will return the next day to play another 18 rounds to determine a winner. 

What Is The Longest Sudden Death Playoff In Golf

However, rather than playing another game, the PGA Championship, and other tournaments, will hold an aggregate golf playoff whereby a number of holes are agreed upon and the player with the least strokes wins. With this in mind, this article will explore what is the longest sudden-death playoff in golf. 

Harris English

The last time Harris English won a golf tournament was over six years ago. After his six-and-a-half-hour golf match; he was visibly exhausted. Not only did he struggle to stay focused on the game but he even lost track of the number of holes he put. 

However, that being said, he never gave up and went on to win the Travelers Championship with an eight-hole sudden-death playoff. This is the longest sudden-death playoff game in golfing history! Over four days, the Travelers Championship required 80 holes before determining a winner. 

In fact, it took so long that both players were provided with a final eight attempts at the last hole to determine the winner. Essentially, the Travelers Championship was transformed into a matchplay tournament. 

Although these types of games are extremely rare in modern golf, English is considered the first golfer to come out victorious in an eight-hole playoff. 

Kramer Hickok

While the Travelers Championship was the longest playoff in sporting history, with English winning with a birdie putt on the 18th hole, this sudden-death playoff was nearly as long as the regular bearer’s eight-hole round. 

In fact, the Motor City Open in 1949 featured the longest eleven-hole sudden-death playoff in golf history. On tour, it was the longest playoff. Within these tournaments, the golfers have the score under par on all nine holes to come out victorious. 

During the Travelers Championship, English shot the birdie from a distance of 28 feet, taking the lead from Marc Leishman. 

Bob Gilder

Bob Gilder holds the record for the longest sudden-death playoff in the history of golf. The event took place in the 1990 Acom Championship which saw two players eliminated during the third round of playoffs. 

Born on the 31st of December 1950, Gilder went on to compete in both the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour. In college, he was a standout player, coming out victorious in six tournaments during the Ryder Cup and the PGA Tour in 1983

In 1982, during the Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic, Gilder performed a double eagle on a par five 18th hole. Taking his second shot, it traveled a distance of 230 yards (210m) before dropping back onto the green and seamlessly transitioning into the cup. 

This tied the tour record and aided him in winning the tournament. This season, Gilder has yet to win another major tournament, however, in 2002 he won the Principal Charity Classic. 

Stewart Cink

The 1999 Open Championship also features one of the longest sudden-death playoffs in the history of golf. During the final round of the competition, Cink was a total of nine strokes behind his winning opponent, Ted Purdy.

What Is The Longest Sudden Death Playoff In Golf (1)

Cink, dressed in a plaid jacket, used a wedge to hit a long pitching shot over 146 yards to 6 feet to score a birdie. His opponent, Purdy, just missed the par putt with two feet distance under the hole, providing Cink with the opportunity to make a three-foot putt, and, ultimately, win the tournament. 

The 2004 Masters, won by Stewart Cink, was one of the most dramatic performances in the history of golf competitions. In 2004, as the match was coming to an end, the Englishman performed a nine-shot comeback that allowed him to come out victorious. 

In fact, the PGA officials rewatched the shot over ten times to make sure it didn’t violate any golfing rules. Another example of such dramatic events took place in the 2015 Masters whereby Jim Furyk won the tournament during a sudden-death playoff when his opponent called himself out for a penalty. 

Lloyd Mangrum

From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, the Motor City Open was a PGA Tour competition played at various golfing venues in Detroit. The 1949 Motor City Open hosted one of the longest sudden-death playoffs in the history of golf, whereby 11 holes were put between Lloyd Mangrum and Cary Middlecoff. 

Even after the regulation play ended, both players were announced as tied. After forced playoffs, the two golfers were declared co-winners. The co-winner’s check was presented to Mangrum by Chick Harbert, with both players being notable figures in the World Golf Hall of Fame. 

Born in Trenton, Texas, Mangrum took professional golfing status at only the age of 15, his career flourished from there. During this time, he was also working as an assistant under his brother Ray – a head professional at Cliff-Dale Country Club located in Dallas. 

In Wilmington, N.C., he eventually won the Azalea Open, and the following year went on to win the tournament. 

Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever watched a sudden-death playoff take place, you’ll know how tedious they can get – some lasting hours or even days! These playoffs are essential for determining a winner. From Harris English to Bob Gilder, there have been some excellent examples. Hopefully, this guide has informed you about the longest sudden-death playoff in golfing history. 

Garratt Shmidt
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