RYDER CUP: Should the format be changed?

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Could Davis Love’s decision to start the 2012 match with foursomes, rather than fourballs as at Celtic Manor in south Wales two years ago, influence the final result?

Under Ryder Cup rules, the home captain has a say on the order of play and Love, like Paul Azinger before him, requested that this year’s matches should be started with foursomes.

Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie, the last two European captains on home soil, elected to begin their victorious campaigns with fourballs instead.

Love even asked that the two foursomes series be contested on the opening day, with the fourballs played the next day, but that request was vetoed by match officials.

The American captain was clearly influenced by past results – having been informed the US leads the Europeans 139 ½ points to 109 ½ in foursomes through the match at Celtic Manor – but he has indicated that was not the only reason for his request.

“We felt like going to alternate shot (foursomes) in the morning would mean we could pick our teams at night,” he said.

“The guys would know who they were playing with. With best ball (fourballs) in the afternoon, we’d be able to make changes on the fly. Everybody I’ve talked to was comfortable going with the alternate shot first.

“Logistically, it makes more sense,” he added. “I don’t know what the reason is, but our guys feel confident in the foursomes. I would think we would be better in best ball, but the records show we’re not.
Love is adamant that starting with foursomes will improve his side’s chances but the problem is that recent results do not back him up. “This is a big deal for us, to get out and get ahead early. I never saw one reason to do it the other way round. We even asked if we could do two of the same format the same day. But they said no.”

Love is adamant that starting with foursomes will improve his side’s chances but the problem is that recent results do not back him up.

Four years ago at Valhalla, the home side did win the foursomes 4 ½ to 3 ½  having started with that format, but over the last four matches Europe leads the US 19 points to 13 in the alternate shot format.

In contrast, the Americans have actually earned more points than the Europeans in the fourballs over the course of the last two matches (10 ½ – 8 ½), although over the last four contests the Europeans also hold a slender advantage in that format (18 ½ – 16 ½).

The simple fact of the matter is that Love’s insistence that starting with foursomes will give his side an advantage is flawed. In fact, I do not believe any amount of tinkering with the format would sway the result one way or another, and nor am I one of those people who think it should be changed.

Over the last few years, several commentators have suggested the match should be extended to four days while others have called for the foursomes to be replaced by greensomes and/or for the number of singles matches to be increased.

Personally, I am very firmly in the camp which advocates that “if it ain’ broke, there’s no need to fix it”.

After all, each two years the match provides first-rate entertainment and invariably goes right down to the wire.

I am well aware the format has changed from time to time since the match was inaugurated in 1927 at Worcester Country Club, Massachusetts. Back then, it consisted of just four foursomes and eight singles.

Subsequently, for five matches between 1963 and 1971, two foursomes series were played on one day followed by two series of fourballs on the next, just as Love requested this time.

However, by accident or design, I’m not sure which, we have settled on something that works, and, like everyone else, I can’t wait for it to start.

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