The US Amateur is one of the most grueling tournaments in golf, beginning with two days of stroke play that leads into as many as five days of match play before a US Amateur champion is crowned. It's a week of pressure-packed golf, and it never relents.
The pressure starts on Monday of US Amateur week, with the start of stroke-play qualifying. The entire field plays two rounds, or 36 holes, of stroke-play golf to identify the top 64 players who move into a single-elimination match-play bracket to ultimately determine a champion.
It is rare, however, for there to be exactly 64 players who neatly qualify for the match-play portion of the US Amateur. Since the match-play portion is an exact bracket, that means a playoff is typically held at the end of 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying to determine the final field.
How US Amateur playoff determines the match-play bracket
When there are more players inside the top 64 and ties than there are spots in the match-play bracket, the USGA conducts a playoff to determine the players who earn their way into the match-play portion and their tournament seeding.
Say, for example, that 10 players are tied for 62nd place through two rounds of stroke play. That would mean that there are three spots available -- for seed Nos. 62, 63 and 64 -- with 10 players earning a right to compete in a sudden-death playoff to earn those spots.
A playoff then begins with those 10 players. The playoff could end on the first hole, or it could continue. Any player or players who earn the lowest score on a hole will qualify outright after that hole. Say that two players tie for the lowest score among the 10 playoff competitors. Those players are then seed Nos. 62 and 63 and can stop competing. The players with the next-best scores continue to the next hole, provided there are enough to merit an additional hole.
A second playoff hole then starts with the remaining players. If a player separates themselves with the lowest score on that hole, they qualify as the 64th seed, and the playoff ends. If two players tie for the lowest score on a hole, they alone continue to a third playoff hole. The playoff continues in this fashion until the spots are filled.