As might be expected, Gene Littler is most unhappy with the new sudden-death playoff rule for two of the Professional Golf Association's Big Four championships. In fact, he said yesterday of the rule, "It stinks."
Littler was the first victim of the new rule, which replaces the traditional 18-hole playoff, during the PGA Championship at Pebble Beach Sunday when he lost to Lanny Wadkins' par on the third hole.
"It may sound like sour grapes, coming from me after what happened. But that's the way I feel," Little said. "I told 'em the same thing before we started. The sudden death is fine for our tournaments out on the tour. Get it over with. Get a winner and get down the road.
"But not for a major championsip. It's too important. Too many things can happen in sudden death."
"I know there are a lot of reasons for it [the change from 18 holes to sudden death], but I don't like it," he continued. "I didn't like it for that one and I don't like it for that one and I don't like it for the Masters. I've told them so, too."
In the last couple of years, both the Masters and the PGA have abandoned the 18-hole playoff, played the day after the final round, while the British and U.S. Opens have stuck to the 18-hole format.
The players suspect the change was made to accommodate television. PGA tour commissioner Deane Beman was exuberant yesterday about what good television the sudden-death playoff makes.
"I was glued to the TV set. I've seen a lot of golf, but I watched every second of it," Beman said. "As opposed to the 18 holes on Monday, which is often anticlimatic . . . this was very, very exciting. It would have lost a lot of edge if we'd come back the next day."