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The Ryder Cup Format and Scoring

Match Play

The Ryder Cup is a very exciting and unique golf competition between the United States and Europe that takes place every two years. Before you watch the upcoming competition, it is important that you have a basic understanding of the Ryder Cup format and the scoring rules that are in place. Without a basic understanding, the Ryder Cup can seem confusing as the scoring is different than the normal stroke play tournaments that take place on the PGA Tour.

Match Play:

The general scoring system used in all of the Ryder Cup matches is the match play scoring system. In match play, each hole is in a way, its own separate competition. The total strokes taken per 18 holes is not important as it is in stroke play. All that matters is beating your opponent on more holes than they beat you. The player or pairing who has the lowest score on each particular hole, wins that hole. If the players or pairings have the same score on the hole, the hole is halved, meaning no one wins the hole.

The scoring terminology does not focus on how many holes a player or a pairing has won. It focuses solely on how much one is ahead or behind their opponent. For example, if Tiger Woods was in a singles match against Sergio Garcia and Tiger had won two more holes than Sergio had through 13 holes, Tiger’s score would be seen as “2up” on Sergio. On the other hand, Sergio’s score would be seen as “2down”. If they were tied, both of their scores would be seen as “All Square” or “AS”.

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To use the example of Tiger and Sergio again, let us say Tiger goes on and wins the next two holes. So, he is 4 up with only the three holes to go. So, the match is over as Sergio cannot comeback and beat or tie Tiger. In this scenario, Team USA would be given a point for a victory in the match. If Sergio and Tiger had finished all 18 holes and were still all square, the whole match would be considered a draw and both Team USA and Team Europe would be given a half point. The whole Ryder Cup competition is decided by which team wins the majority of the matches and acquires the most points.

Now onto the three specific types of matches used in the Ryder Cup:

1. Fourball:

In Fourball play, two players from Team USA go against two players from Team Europe. These pairings are selected by each respective team’s captain. Each player plays his own ball for the entire match. So, there are four balls in play, hence the name “Fourball”. The player who has the lowest score on each hole wins the hole for his team. Going along with the general match play rules discussed, if a player from both teams ties for the lowest score, the hole is halved.

2. Foursomes

Just like in Fourball play, players are paired with a member from their own team to play against a pairing from the opposing team. The difference is that each player alternates shots with their partner. So for example if Bubba Watson is paired with Jim Furyk, Bubba and Jim must take turns hitting shots until the hole is finished. So, there are only two balls in play on each hole: one for Team USA and one for Team Europe. Each pairing must also alternate who tees off on every hole. So, one player would tee off on all the even number holes and one would tee off on all the odd number holes.

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3. Singles

In Singles play, a golfer from Team USA is paired against a golfer from Team Europe. They follow the same match play rules that were previously discussed. The only difference from the other types is that it is only one golfer against another golfer. As the name suggests, there are no pairings in singles play

Basic Event Schedule

Foursomes matches are normally competed on Friday and Saturday mornings during the Ryder Cup. Fourball matches are normally competed on Friday and Saturday afternoons. There are four matches of both Foursomes and Fourball on Friday and again on Saturday. Once again, it is up to each team’s respective captain to determine the pairings and who will play in each Fourball and Foursomes match. Sunday is reserved for Singles play. All twelve golfers from each team play on Sunday going head to head against a golfer from the opposing team.

Additional Sources:

2012 Event Schedule

2010 Match Format