Ryder Cup format – how is the winner determined?

We’re now just one week out of one of the biggest golfing events of 2023. It’s no normal event, that’s for sure. Stroke-play goes out of the window, as does individual play. Here it’s all about teams. That’s right, it’s time for the 2023 renewal of the Ryder Cup, which for those who don’t know is a bi-annual teams golf competition played between Europe and the United States.

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Photo by Icon Sport.

A golfing event like no other, the Ryder Cup is one of the rare occasions where golfers come together to form teams. One team contains players from Europe, while the other team contains players from the USA. Each team will contain 12 players, some of which qualify automatically based on where they rank, while others are picked by the team captains, which this year will be Luke Donald for Team Europe, while Zach Johnson captains the Team USA.

What is the format for the Ryder Cup?

Now, as a team event, the Ryder Cup naturally differs from other golf competitions that you may see on the PGA Tour or the European Tour. That’s not the only different. The main difference besides the team aspect is that fact that the tournament will follow a match-play format, rather than a stroke-play format. This means that players will play against each other to score points.

What is match-play?

Before we go any further, let’s look at what match-play is. Most of the time in golf, stroke-play is used. This is where say two players play against each other, they record each and every stroke and at the end of the round, the player with the fewest number of strokes wins. However, match-play is different, so much so that technically, the player with the lowest number of strokes at the end round doesn’t necessarily win by default.

When it comes to match-play, in the Ryder Cup at least, two players, or two pairs of players go head-to-head. Whichever player or pair shoots the lowest score on a single hole, wins that hole. For example, if the Player A scores a four on the first hole, and Player B scores a five, Player A wins the hole and thus goes 1-0 up. Every time a player wins a hole, they win a point. If the two players or pairs record the same score on a hole, then the hole is halved and half a point is awarded to each. At the end of 18 holes, whichever player or pair has the most points, wins. In the Ryder Cup, every time a pair or player wins a match, they win a point for their team, which goes on the overall scoreboard.

Foursomes, fourballs and singles

Match-play is the order of the day at the Ryder Cup, but it’s not a case of players just playing against each other. The first two days begin with foursomes matches, before moving on to the fourball matches. On the Sunday, 12 singles matches take place. The team captains decide which players take part in which matches.

For those unfamiliar with foursomes, it’s really quite simple. Foursomes matches consist of two pairs playing against each on alternate-shot basis. In other words, each pair has Player A and Player B. One player is nominated to begin proceedings by teeing off on the first hole, before the other player in the pair hits the second shot. The pair then alternate shots as the round progresses.

When it comes to fourball matches, things are a little different. Each player in each pair plays their own ball throughout the entirety of the round. Therefore, both players in each pair play out each hole from start to finish. Whichever player records the lowest score on a single hole, wins the point for their pair.

How is the winner of the Ryder Cup determined?

Every time that a pair or player wins a match at the Ryder Cup, a point is awarded to their team. As the competition progresses, so does the overall score. Whichever team has the most points at the close of play on the Sunday goes down as the winner.

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