Holy cow! As Harry Caray might say. Let’s have some golf overtime!

Maybe what we have here is a trend. For two weeks running, the PGA Tour enjoyed – and that’s the word, enjoyed – dynamic finishes at its tournaments. Most remarkably, Harris English won the Travelers Championship in Connecticut in an incredible eight-hole playoff with Kramer Hickok, the match finishing in semi-twilight with TV host Jim Nantz trying to come up with new ways to describe the action on the same holes. 

The tour barely had time to figure out the various algorithms associated with its second longest playoff ever when golfers gathered in Detroit for the Rocket Mortgage Classic the following week. Everybody enjoyed the Travelers playoff so much that a repeat (of sorts) was in order. This one involved fewer holes (only five, dangit) but more golfers (three instead of two, with Cam Davis prevailing over Troy Merritt after Joaquin Niemann was eliminated with a bogey on the first extra hole. Niemann, by the way, had played 72 holes without a bogey prior to the playoff).

TV viewers looking for 60 Minutes got golf instead. The Connecticut and Detroit events marked the first time the tour had hosted back-to-back playoffs of five holes or more.

The entertainment value of these finishes versus somebody winning a tournament by three shots is obvious. With another major (the Open) on the horizon, will fans be disappointed if there isn’t a slam-bang, no-holds-barred, wacky playoff finish on the coast of England?

It wasn’t always this way when tournaments finished 72 holes with a tie. Some invited those involved in the tie to return the next day for an 18-hole playoff. This concept wasn’t particularly good. It was too much golf. It messed up travel schedules. It complicated television.

So the playoff situation related to the majors evolved. The Open pits those who are tied in a three-hole playoff, with the aggregate score determining the champion. If the players are still tied after three holes, the match goes to sudden death. The Masters uses  sudden death, the PGA Championship has three-hole aggregate play, and the U.S. Open uses a two-hole aggregate format.

Each of these formats has its merits. Unfortunately, few recreational golfers will experience the drama that automatically attaches itself to these kinds of finishes.

There is the “excitement” of a local tournament that settles ties “on the scorecard,” with a player’s score on the first hole or the toughest handicap hole determining the winner. This is about as thrilling as trimming your grandmother’s toenails.

What about four golfers playing their usual weekly round at their favorite course? It’s not practical for a number of reasons for them to break a tie by playing extra holes (the guy at the pro-shop desk would say, “What?!”), but such an important contest must not end by looking at scribbles on a scorecard. A workable solution can be found on the practice green, where those who are tied putt from progressively shorter distances until somebody makes one. This is a quick solution and a clean end to the day. Just hold down the jubilation when somebody finally wins. People are working on their putting on the other side of the green.

Meanwhile, let’s hope for more extra innings from the folks out there touring.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.