Most players in a playoff at each of the four men's major championships

By T.J. Auclair
Published on
Most players in a playoff at each of the four men's major championships

The ultimate for any person who dreams big about golf is to win a major championship.
Win one of golf's big four and you're forever in the history books alongside the greats. 
Majors are a serious, serious grind. And sometimes, that grind can be compounded by a playoff. 
Today, the Masters playoff format consists of sudden death, while the U.S. Open (2-hole), The Open Championship (4-hole) and PGA Championship (3-hole) all employ multi-hole, aggregate score playoffs (again, followed by sudden death, if necessary).
With all the history surrounding the majors, we wondered: In all the instances of major playoffs, which of those playoffs involved the most players in each of the grand slam championships?
Here's a look...
The Masters
# of playoffs in tournament history: 17
Most players in a Masters playoff: 3
Of the 17 playoffs contested at the Masters, there have been five occasions where that playoff has involved three players. 
1962: In the first three-way Masters playoff, Arnold Palmer defeated Gary Player and Dow Finsterwald. It was Palmer's third Masters win overall. The Masters was decided in an 18-hole Monday playoff that year.
1966: Jack Nicklaus claimed the third of his record six green jackets in 1966 when he took down Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer in a playoff. The Masters was decided in an 18-hole Monday playoff that year.
1979: Fuzzy Zoeller, a Masters rookie in 1979, won the tournament on the second playoff hole over Ed Sneed and Tom Watson. 
1987: Everyone remembers this Masters for Larry Mize's chip-in for an improbable birdie on the par-4 11th hole to down Greg Norman on the second hole of a playoff. What people might forget is that Seve Ballesteros was also a part of the playoff. He was eliminated at the par-4 10th when he failed to make par.
2009: Angel Cabrera claimed his second major championship overall by defeating Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell in this Masters playoff. Campbell was eliminated on the first playoff hole, while Perry was downed on the second playoff hole.
U.S. Open
# of playoffs in tournament history: 33
Most players in a U.S. Open playoff: 3
Six times in the history of the 33 U.S. Open playoffs has the extra session consisted of three golfers. Here's how all six played out.
1910: Alex Smith of Scotland, defeated his younger brother, Macdonald Smith, and John McDermott in an 18-hole playoff at the Philadelphia Cricket Club's St. Martin's Course.
1911: John McDermott, just 19 years old, avenged his playoff loss from a year earlier to become the first American-born U.S. Open champion. He defeated Mike Brady and George Simpson in an 18-hole playoff.
1913: Amateur Francis Ouimet shocked the world when he defeated two of the day's top professionals in Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in an 18-hole playoff at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. It also happened to be Ouimet's home course.
1939: Byron Nelson topped Craig Wood and Denny Shute at Philadelphia Country Club's Spring Mill Course. This particular U.S. Open actually required two, 18-hole playoffs. With Nelson and Wood matching scores on the first 18 holes, they went to a second 18-hole playoff the next day.
1946: Talk about earning it. Lloyd Mangrum, Vic Ghezzi and Byron Nelson were all tied after the first 18-hole playoff. Mangrum walked away with the victory after another 18-hole playoff with Ghezzi and Nelson, edging both players by a single shot at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio.
1950: Known as the "Miracle at Merion," 1948 champion Ben Hogan won the second of his four U.S. Open titles in an 18-hole playoff over 1946 champion Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio, just 16 months after being severely injured in an automobile accident. It was the fourth of Hogan's nine major titles. 
The Open Championship
# of playoffs in tournament history: 21
Most players in an Open Championship playoff: 3
Incredibly, only three times in the long history of the game's oldest major have there been three players in a playoff. Here they are...
1989: The first use off the four-hole aggregate playoff, adopted in 1985, Mark Calcavecchia emerged victorious at Royal Troon over Greg Norman and Wayne Grady. Calcavecchia was the first American champion at The Open in six years.   
1999: Frenchman Jean Van de Velde triple-bogeyed the 72nd hole when a double bogey would have won him the tournament. In the four-hole aggregate playoff, Scot Paul Lawrie defeated Van de Velde and Justin Leonard. Lawrie started the day 10 shots off the lead, but his final-round 67 earned him an unlikely spot in that playoff... and he took advantage of the opportunity.
2015: Zach Johnson joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo as the only players to win the Masters and an Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews, when he defeated Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen in a four-hole aggregate score playoff.
PGA Championship
# of playoffs in tournament history: 18 (13 in the stroke-play era and five in the match-play era)
Most players in an PGA Championship playoff: 3
Only twice in PGA Championship history has a playoff featured three players. Note: The stroke-play era didn't begin until 1958 for the PGA Championship.
1978: In a sudden-death playoff that went just two holes, John Mahaffey won his lone major title in the PGA Championship at Oakmont, defeating Jerry Pate and Tom Watson.
2004: In a three-hole, aggregate score playoff in the first PGA Championship contested at Whistling Straits, Vijay Singh was able to win the tournament for the second time in his career with a victory over Chris DiMarco and Justin Leonard.