After last year's Shin-Creamer epic, LPGA tweaks Kingsmill's playoff format

WILLIAMSBURG — The LPGA has never seen a playoff like last year's at Kingsmill, and for spectators, the format was perfect. As Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer dueled time after time after time on the River Course's 18th hole, fans lining the fairway or seated in the grandstand never had to budge.

But as the stalemate continued and darkness approached, the 382-yard, par-4 became tedious for Shin and Creamer, a sporting purgatory with no end in sight.

A new playoff rotation for this week's Kingsmill Championship offers players a welcome respite. Spectators may have to walk a bit to follow the action, but that's a small price.

"Now it's written in big, bold letters what holes the playoffs are on," Creamer said on the eve of Thursday's opening round at Kingsmill. "I think every tournament out there (now) has a strategic plan for playoff holes. So I think we changed a lot of the ways tournament directors … look at events."

Rehashing last year's marathon ranks right up there with the yips for Creamer.

After finishing regulation at 16-under-par, she and Shin replayed the 18th eight times. Each made eight pars.

Never was there talk of moving from 18. Established before the tournament, the playoff format was to play 18 until a winner emerged.

But with the sun long since set, and a flight to the next week's Women's British Open long since missed, LPGA officials halted play after the eighth playoff hole and told Shin and Creamer to be on the 16th tee at 9 a.m. Monday.

"I'm just confused why we didn't go back and play (18) again Monday," Creamer said. "I still kind of question that to this day."

The answer is Kingsmill officials no longer were beholden to thousands of spectators gathered at 18. Monday morning promised a more intimate setting.

Indeed, a far smaller gallery greeted Creamer and Shin at the par-4 16th, and they weren't around long. Creamer 3-putted the hole for bogey as Shin made a routine par.

The nine-hole overtime was the LPGA's longest sudden-death playoff between two players.

"It will go down in history," Creamer said, "and it's just unfortunate I didn't win it."

In the event of a tie this year, the sudden-death format would have the competitors play No. 18 three times in succession. Absent resolution, the playoff would shift to the par-4 16th and, if necessary, the par-3 17th and back to 18.

That decision was made last week when LPGA advance official Marty Robinson met with Wayne Nooe, Kingsmill's director of golf.

"Depending on the hole and how it lays out, it could favor one player over another," Robinson said. "So if you hit a draw or a fade, or whatever it happens to be, that particular hole might favor you over me, or vice-versa.

"We like to have a variety of holes. We think that's a fairer competition. Players generally like to have varied holes to play, for the same reason."

Television doesn't like the delay that accompanies shuttling players from, say, the 18th green to 16th tee. And many spectators prefer the convenience of one-stop shopping.

"This is a compromise for everybody," Robinson said.

"The 18th hole is really tough to make the birdie, (especially with) the back corner (Sunday) pin location," Shin said. "So I think this (change) is a good idea. But I worry, lots of gallery, they are around standing on the 18th hole. So if we move back to 16, how many people would come with us?"

Shin is right. The 18th is usually among Kingsmill's toughest tests — last year it was the tournament's fifth-hardest — and only seven of 71 players Sunday made birdie.

Neither the LPGA nor PGA Tour employs a blanket playoff format. Tournaments, in concert with the tours, establish their own policies.

For example, the 1989 PGA Tour event at Kingsmill, the Anheuser-Busch Classic, featured a three-way playoff between Mike Donald, Hal Sutton and Tim Simpson that started on No. 16 and continued to 17 and 18 before darkness hit. Still deadlocked after three holes, Donald and Simpson returned to No. 16 Monday, when Donald earned his lone career victory.

But there's no denying last year's playoff here was an anomaly.

This season's two LPGA overtimes have lasted one and two holes, respectively, with Suzann Pettersen and Beatriz Recari prevailing. The five playoffs other than Kingsmill in 2012 did not extend beyond three holes, even the six-way Australian Open OT won by Jessica Korda on the second extra hole.

So odds are, a playoff Sunday would be self-contained at 18.

Neither Shin nor Creamer would need a tutorial.

"I don't think I need a practice round on that hole," Creamer said, "ever again."

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at For more from Teel, read his blog at teeltime and follow him at

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