The Open Championship has seen 20 playoffs in 139 playings, although the first playoff, in 1876, was quite literally a 'non-event'. Davie Strath and Bob Martin had tied after the two rounds of the Championship, but Strath refused to participate in a playoff, leaving Martin simply to walk the course without playing to be declared Champion.
Format The original playoff format was over 36 holes, and remained in force through 1963, when Bob Charles defeated Phil Rogers 140 to 148 at Royal Lytham. In all, ten Opens were decided by 36 hole playoffs.
The following year the format was changed to 18 holes, but was not called for until 1970, when Jack Nicklaus defeated Doug Sanders 72 to 73 at St Andrews. Only two Opens were decided by 18 hole playoffs.
The format was changed again to a four hole playoff in 1985, but not used until 1989 at Royal Troon, when Mark Calcavecchia defeated Wayne Grady and Greg Norman. To date, eight Open Championships have been decided by four hole playoffs, the most recent being Tom Watson's defeat against Stewart Cink in 2009 at Turnberry.
In the event of a tie after the four holes, the result is decided by sudden death.
Most playoff participations
Harry Vardon - 2 wins (1896, 1911)
Tom Watson - 2 (won in 1975, lost in 2009)
Ernie Els - 2 (won in 2002, lost in 2004)
St Andrews - 5 (including the 'non-event')
Carnoustie - 3
Muirfield - 2
Musselburgh - 2
Royal Lytham - 2
Royal St George's - 2
Royal Troon - 2
Royal Birkdale - 1
Turnberry - 1
'Extra' extra holes
Only once has a playoff gone beyond its stipulated duration, in 2002, when Ernie Els and Thomas Levet were tied after four holes. Els won by sudden death at the fifth, or first extra hole
Most participants in a playoff
2002 - 4 (Ernie Els, Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington, Thomas Levet)
1999 - 3 (Paul Lawrie, Justin Leonard, Jean Van de Velde)
1989 - 3 (Mark Calcavecchia, Wayne Grady, Greg Norman)
Full list of Open Championship Playoffs • 2009: Stewart Cink (4-3-4-3=14) def. Tom Watson (5-3-7-5=20) over four holes at Turnberry, Scotland.
• 2007: Padraig Harrington (3-3-4-5=15) def. Sergio Garcia (5-3-4-4=16) over four holes at Carnoustie, Scotland.
• 2004: Todd Hamilton (4-4-3-4=15) def. Ernie Els (4-4-4-4=16) over four holes at Royal Troon, Scotland.
• 2002: Ernie Els (4-3-5-4=16) def. Stuart Appleby (4-3-5-5=17) and Steve Elkington (5-3-4-5=17) over four holes at Muirfield, Scotland, and tied with Thomas Levet (4-3-5-4=16), but won at the first sudden death hole with a 4 to Levet's 5.
• 1999: Paul Lawrie (5-4-3-3=15) def. Justin Leonard (5-4-4-5=18) and Jean Van de Velde (6-4-3-5=18) over four holes at Carnoustie, Scotland.
• 1998: Mark O'Meara (4-4-5-4=17) def. Brian Watts (5-4-5-5=19) over four holes at Royal Birkdale, England.
• 1995: John Daly (4-3-4-4=15) def. Constantino Rocca (5-4-7-3=19) over four holes at St. Andrews, Scotland.
• 1989: Mark Calcavecchia (4-3-3-3=13) def. Wayne Grady (4-4-4-4=16) and Greg Norman (3-3-4-x) over four holes at Royal Troon, Scotland.
• 1975: Tom Watson (71) def. Jack Newton (72) at Carnoustie, Scotland.
• 1970: Jack Nicklaus (72) def. Doug Sanders (73) at St. Andrews, Scotland.
• 1963: Bob Charles (140) def. Phil Rodgers (148) in 36 holes at Royal Lytham, England.
• 1958: Peter Thomson (139) def. Dave Thomas (143) in 36 holes at Royal Lytham, England.
• 1949: Bobby Locke (135) def. Harry Bradshaw (147) in 36 holes at Royal St. George's, Sandwich, England.
• 1933: Denny Shute (149) def. Craig Wood (154) in 36 holes at St. Andrews, Scotland.
• 1921: Jack Hutchison (150) def. Roger Wethered (159) in 36 holes at St. Andrews, Scotland.
• 1911: Harry Vardon won when Arnaud Massy conceded at the 35th hole at Royal St. George's, Sandwich, England.
• 1896: Harry Vardon (157) def. John Taylor (161) in 36 holes at Muirfield, Gullane, Scotland.
• 1889: Willie Park, Jr. (158) def. Andrew Kirkaldy (163) in 36 holes at Musselburgh, Musselburgh, Scotland.
• 1883: Willie Fernie (158) def. Bob Ferguson (159) in 36 holes at Musselburgh, Scotland.
• 1876: Bob Martin awarded title when Davie Strath refused to playoff at St. Andrews, Scotland.