Longest Sudden-Death Playoffs on the PGA Tour

Or: The sudden-death playoff that lasted a whopping 11 holes

Lloyd Mangrum and Cary Middlecoff
Lloyd Mangrum (left) and Cary Middlecoff pose as members of the 1953 American Ryder Cup team. (Mangrum was captain.). Ron Burton/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The longest sudden-death playoff in PGA Tour history lasted a whopping 11 holes — and it didn't even decide a solo winner! Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum, two future members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, were the players. The 1949 Motor City Open was the tournament.

Key Takeaways

  • A "sudden-death playoff" is one that ends as soon as one golfer beats the other on a hole. In PGA Tour history, the longest such playoff lasted 11 holes.
  • Five other times, most recently in 2012, a PGA Tour tournament sudden-death playoff required eight holes before a winner emerged.

List of PGA Tour's Longest Sudden-Death Playoffs

Here is the list of longest sudden-death playoffs in PGA Tour history:

11 holes

8 holes

Five times, most recently in 2012, sudden-death playoffs on the PGA Tour have required eight holes to settle:

  • 1965 Azalea Open: Dick Hart def. Phil Rodgers
  • 1978 Greater Milwaukee Open: Lee Elder def. Lee Trevino
  • 1981 Quad Cities Open: Dave Barr def. Woody Blackburn, Dan Halldorson, Frank Conner and Victor Regalado
  • 1983 Phoenix Open: Bob Gilder def. Rex Caldwell, Johnny Miller and Mark O'Meara
  • 2012 Mayakoba Golf Classic: John Huh def. Robert Allenby

Two Winners In 11-Hole Middlecoff vs. Mangrum Playoff

Sudden-death playoffs are those that continue only until someone wins a hole, in a two-person playoff; or until only one player is left in a multi-person playoff.

The Motor City Open was played in Detroit, sporadically, from 1948 through 1962. In 1949, Mangrum and Middlecoff tied at 11-under 273 at the conclusion of the scheduled 72 holes (four rounds). That established a tournament scoring record that stood until the 1959 tournament.

So Middlecoff and Mangrum continued into a sudden-death playoff. The only problem was, they kept matching scores. And the playoff kept going ... and going ... and darkness kept growing nearer and nearer. And they wound up running out of daylight before they ran out of holes.

Middlecoff and Mangrum tied each other on 11 successive playoff holes, and by that point it was simply too dark to continue. The players and tournament officials decided to halt the playoff and declare the two players co-champions. You could say that it was a sudden-death playoff in which nobody "died."

One year later, in the 1950 tournament, the same two golfers were in the thick of things again. Middlecoff was the midway leader. But it was Mangrum who repeated as champion of the Motor City Open in 1950, this time as the solo winner. Mangrum won by one stroke over Sam Snead. Then Middlecoff won this tournament the next two times it was played, in 1952 and 1954.