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The Open announces break with tradition that could decide the winner at Royal Portrush

A sign outside the club
A sign outside the club

The R&A have confirmed an interesting rule change that could play a huge part in deciding the winner at The Open Championship later this month.

Should two or more players be tied for the lead after the 72 holes of regulation play, there will be a new three-hole play-off to decide the winner.

That will be played over the par four first, par three 13th and par four 18th.

If any players are still level after those three holes, the winner of the Claret Jug will be decided by a sudden death play-off.

In recent years, The Open has gone to a four hole play-off, the last of which was required in 2015 to help Zach Johnson see off Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen.

That was the the ninth of its kind, dating back to 1989.

What about before then? Well play-offs have been getting shorter over the history of the Championship.

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It used to be that a tie at the top meant a whole extra day's play.

In 1975 and 1970, there were 18-hole play-offs when two players tied at the top. In 75, Tom Watson beat Australian Jack Newton and in 70, the great Jack Nicklaus saw off Doug Sanders, both by a single shot.

If that seems like a big deal for a play-off, it was only half as long as the previous 36-hole play-offs, which lasted from Willie Fernie won in 1883 until Bob Charles beat Phil Rodgers in 1963.

The very first tie occurred in 1876, but Bob Martin was awarded the trophy when David Strath refused to play.

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