Eighty-six years of major championship playoff history

Posted November 15, 2016 - Western Pennsylvania Golf Association - Contact

Arnold Palmer and Rocco Mediate at the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Photo courtesy of USGA.

Six major championship playoffs involved area golfers. Three of these competitions are among the game’s most famous, and only Lew Worsham and Jock Hutchison emerged with championship titles.

Among the most famous U.S. Open playoffs ever involved Worsham, Arnold Palmer and Rocco Mediate, featuring all time greats Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as their competition.

Tiger Woods birdied the home hole in the final round the 2008 U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif. to force an 18-hole playoff with Greensburg native Rocco Mediate. After tying at even-par 71, Woods prevailed with a par on the first extra hole to Mediate’s bogey. The 2008 U.S. Open was Woods’ last major title.

At the 1966 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Palmer opened a two-stroke lead on the front nine of the 18-hole playoff, but Casper rallied to win 69-73. On the final round of regulation, Palmer lost a seven stroke lead to Billy Casper on the final nine in the last round.

Palmer was also in a playoff at 1963 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. with Julius Boros and Jacky Cupit. Boros shot 70, Cupit shot 73, and Palmer, 76.

Palmer’s first playoff occurred at the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club with Jack Nicklaus, where Nicklaus won his first major championship with a score of 71 in the playoff. Palmer shot 74.

Lew Worsham, whom Oakmont had recently hired, faced Sam Snead at the 1947 U.S. Open at St. Louis Country Club in Ladue, Mo. The playoff can down to two short putts on the final hole. Snead missed and Worsham holed his to win his only major championship.

Jock Hutchison faced top English amateur Roger Wethered in a 36-hole playoff after both had recorded 296 at the 1920 Open Championship at Saint Andrews, Scotland. Hutchison won 150 to 159. He was the first American citizen to win the British Open, as well as the first golfer with area connections to win a professional major.

It may be of some consolation that those from here who lost U.S. Opens did so to multiple champions. Nicklaus won four, Woods won three, and Boros and Casper won two each.

The U.S. Open has experienced 31 playoffs, with three occurring at Oakmont: Tommy Armour in 1927; 1961 between Nicklaus and Palmer; and Ernie Els in 1994.

Palmer’s three U.S. Open playoff appearances ties Bob Jones. Jones’ were in 1925, 1928 and 1929. Jones lost his first two before winning over Al Espinosa at Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, N.Y., in 1929.