[PHOTO: Gary Kellner]

As you’re watching the final round of the 2024 PGA Championship and seeing how crowded the leaderboard is – 15 players were in or within five shots of the lead shared at the start of the round by Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa – you might be asking yourself a simple question: what if there’s a tie for the lead after 72 holes?

Naturally, there will be playoff to decide who walks off with the Wanamaker Trophy. But unlike at a standard PGA Tour event, the PGA Championship playoff isn’t a sudden-death contest. Instead, the PGA of America employs a three-hole aggregate-score playoff to determine a winner, a format adopted in 2000. Any players who are tied will play the 13th, 17th and 18th holes at Valhalla. The low score among the players when you add up all three holes is the winner.

But what if there’s still a tie after the three holes? Then the PGA of America does switch to hole-by-hole sudden death. The players remaining go back to the 18th hole and, if necessary, then move on in a rotation of the 13th, 17th and 18th holes, repeating that loop until somebody finally emerges as the champion.

Since the PGA Championship switched from matchplay to strokeplay in 1958, there have been 14 playoffs. The last playoff took place two years ago when Justin Thomas outlasted Will Zalatoris at Southern Hills. Meanwhile, two of the three previous times the PGA Championship came to Valhalla, a playoff was needed to decide things: Mark Brooks defeating Kenny Perry in 1996 and Tiger Woods outlasting Bob May in 2000.

Interestingly, all four men’s majors employee different playoff formats. The Open Championship uses a four-hole aggregate playoff while the US Open now goes with two holes after previous implementing an 18-hole playoff should there be a tie at the end of regulation. Meanwhile, the Masters uses a simple sudden-death hole-by-hole format for its playoff.