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Solheim Cup format – how is the winner determined?

There’s a nice change for fans of the LPGA this week, as we have no individual tournament as is usually the case. Instead, there’s the small matter of the Solheim Cup, which is a team event that pits European players against the players from the USA. This huge event, which will take place at the Spanish venue of Finca Cortesin, is not just up there with the best LPGA tournaments, but that is right up there with the best competitions in golf in general.

Solheim Cup Format
Photo by Icon Sport.

As the Solheim Cup is a team event, it’s naturally quite different from the regular events that we see played on the LPGA Tour week in, week out. The format is different as is the scoring, so let’s take a look at how things will work in Andalusia this week.

What is the Solheim Cup?

Before we go any further, for those who may not be familiar with this event, let’s quickly go over exactly what the Solheim Cup is. Much like the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup is a bi-annual team-event in golf that is contested by teams from Europe and the United States. Played over three days, starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, the teams compete, playing in both pairs and singles. On both Friday and Saturday, the teams will face off as pairs, put together by the respective team captains, while on the third and final day, on Sunday, the team captains put out their best single players to take on the other team, which wraps up proceedings.

Format for the 2023 Solheim Cup

Besides from the fact that this is a teams competition as opposed to an individual event, as most professional golf tournaments are, the main format difference this week is that the players will play match-play, rather than stroke-play.

What is match-play? And how is it different from stroke-play? Well, stroke-play involves each player counting the number of strokes taken on each hole, before taking these scores and adding them up to make a total score. At the end of stroke-play event, the player who took the fewest number of strokes is deemed the winner. Match-play is different in the sense that it involves two players or two pairs going head-to-head on each hole. Whichever player or pair scores the lowest score on the first hole goes 1-0 up. If the same player or pair wins the next hole, they go 2-0 up. Alternatively, if the other player or pair scores the lowest score on the second hole, then the score will be 1-1. If the players or pairs achieve the same score on a hole, then the hole is halved and they each get a half-point. Whichever player or pair has scored the most points after 18 holes wins the match.

Foursome matches

On the first and second day, there will be both foursome matches and fourball matches. These matches will be contested by pairs. In the foursomes, teams plays in pairs. In each pair, the players take turns hitting shots. For example, whichever player hits the tee shot, the other player in the pair plays the next shot. In other words, the pairs play one ball each, hitting alternate shots on each hole. Whichever pair scores the lowest score, wins the hole and earns a point. The pair with the most points after 18 holes, wins the match.

Fourball matches

In the fourball matches, the teams once again play in pairs. Each player (in each pair) plays their own ball. In other words, all four players tee off using their own ball, before playing their own balls throughout the entirety of the round. Whichever player has the lowest score on any given hole, wins the hole for their team. At the end of the round, the pair with the most points wins the match.

How is the overall outcome calculated?

After each match, whether it be a foursomes match and fourball match or a singles match, the score is added to the overall tally. As the matches progress and more are finished the overall score takes shape. At the end of the Solheim Cup, after all the matches are completed, the team with the most points is regarded as the winner. For example, if Team Europe wins 12 matches and Team USA wins 10 matches, them Team Europe will win the Solheim Cup with a score of 18-10.

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