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How to Successfully Compete in a Playoff

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on
Alex Beach chips onto the 10th hole during a playoff for the final round of the 54th PGA Professional Championship.

Alex Beach chips onto the 10th hole during a playoff for the final round of the 54th PGA Professional Championship.

The week is complete at the 2022 PGA Professional Championship. Congratulations to the champion Jesse Mueller. Mueller won by five shots and hoisted the Walter Hagen Cup. He did feel the pressure of the final round as he carded his only over par score of the week in route to victory. 
While the champion Mueller was accepting the trophy over on the 18th green, four men felt another level of pressure as they were competing for three tickets to Tulsa and an opportunity to compete in the 104th PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club. Alex Beach, Paul Dickinson, Tim Feenstra and Ian McConnell were all tied at even par after 72-holes. 
When it comes to competing in a sudden death playoff there are couple things to note:
  1. Be sure you understand the format of play. These men faced a very typical playoff we may see on television, but at your home club the format may be different. Always understand what you are doing.
  2. Make sure you know what holes you are playing. The official will know ahead of time and knowing this detail will help you prepare your game plan should the playoff go more than one hole.
As the four men launched drives off the elevated 10th tee box, Paul Dickinson from the Metropolitan Section playing out of the Atlantic Golf Club on Long Island found the fairway. He was joined by The Broadmoor Golf Club’s Tim Feenstra from the Pacific Northwest Section. 
The two others found trouble from the tee. Ian McConnell of the Robert Trent Jones Club and Mid-Atlantic Section was left and, in the trees, while former PPC Champion Alex Beach from Westchester Country Club in the Metropolitan PGA Section was in the right fairway bunker. 
Each competitor can see the other player’s position. Another PGA Coaching point, always be aware of your competitors lie in a playoff. Don’t just focus on your ball, consider your opponent’s as well. Their ability to play for par may help dictate your own successful path. 
After all four approach shots, only one player reached the green in regulation. As the three off the green surveyed their lie, it is important to note if you want to be a good pressure player and perform well in playoffs you need a solid short game.  Often, a sudden death situation comes down to an anxious chip or an elimination putt. 
McConnell’s prospects for par were less likely than the other three as he left himself about twenty feet to make a four. Dickinson played next and chipped it to a couple feet. Then Alex Beach took center stage. 
 With that shot, he was on his way to a 5th PGA. The former champion of this event in 2019 dropped it in and showed why he deserved his ticket to Tulsa. Next up was McConnell for par, and he missed. This left two short pressure putts for Dickinson and Feenstra. Although they weren’t long, they required concentration. 
Pressure-filled moments like a playoff can cause you to make mistakes. Always take your time when it comes to playing the shot. Don’t get caught up in the moment and rush. Control the pace of your breathing and that will help you slow down everything else.
They both made par and survived elimination. The four playing sudden death for three spots showed us all what can happen when it comes down to extra holes. Learn from what we witnessed so that you can punch your winning ticket the next time you’re faced with a pressure filled playoff.