Ryder Cup golf: The format

All you need to know about the Ryder Cup format...

The setup of the Ryder Cup has changed over the years. From the inaugural event until 1959, the Ryder Cup was a two-day competition, with four 36-hole foursomes matches on the first day and eight 36-hole singles matches on the second day, for a total of 12 points. In 1961, the matches were changed to 18 holes each, but the number of matches was doubled, resulting in a total of 24 points.

In 1963, the event was expanded to three days, with eight fourball matches being added on the middle day to make a total of 32 points. This format remained until 1977, when the number of matches was reduced to 20: five foursomes matches on the first day, five fourball matches on the second day, and ten singles matches on the final day.

In 1979, the first year continental European players participated, the format was changed to the 28-match version in use today, with 8 foursomes/four-ball matches on the first two days and 12 singles matches on the last day.

The current Ryder Cup contests, which take place over three days, involve various match play competitions between players selected from two teams of twelve. Currently, each contest consists of eight foursomes matches, eight fourball matches and 12 singles matches, all matches being played over 18 holes. The winner of each match scores a point for his team, with ½ a point each for any match that is tied after the 18 holes.

A foursomes match is a competition between two teams of two golfers. The golfers on the same team take alternate shots throughout the match, with the same ball. Each hole is won by the team that completes the hole in the fewest shots. A fourball match is also a competition between two teams of two golfers, but all four golfers play their own ball throughout the round rather than alternating shots, and each hole is won by the team whose individual golfer has the lowest score. A singles match is a standard match play competition between two golfers.
In 1963, the event was expanded to three days, with eight fourball matches being added on the middle day to make a total of 32 points. The Ryder Cup takes place between a Friday to a Sunday with a total of 28 matches. On Friday and Saturday there are four fourball matches and four foursomes matches each day; a session of four matches in the morning and a session of four matches in the afternoon. The home captain decides before the contest starts whether the fourball or foursomes matches are played in the morning.

He may choose a different order for the two days. On Sunday, there are 12 singles matches, when all team members play. Not all players must play on Friday and Saturday; the captain can select any eight players for each of the sessions over these two days. The winning team is determined by cumulative total points. Under Ryder Cup rules, the team that does not currently hold the Cup must win the contest to win the Ryder Cup, so that if the contest is a tie (14 points each) the Ryder Cup is retained by the team who held it before the contest.

In the 2010 competition, the format was altered after bad weather on Friday meant that play could not be completed on the scheduled days, although it still had 8 foursome matches, 8 four-ball matches and 12 singles matches. Initially, on the Friday (1 October), the fourball competition began, but was suspended after around 2 hours due to torrential rain that caused the course to be waterlogged.

The delay continued from around 9:30 to around 17:00, when play resumed, but was again suspended at around 19:00 due to fading light. The decision was taken to change the format, to try and complete the contest by Sunday evening.

Thus, on the Saturday, the opening four fourballs matches were finished before 6 foursome matches began (involving all 24 players). These matches were completed on the Saturday, after which two foursomes and the four fourballs matches began (again involving all 24 players). Sunset caused play to be suspended in these 6 matches before they were completed.

It was planned that these matches would be completed early on Sunday to be followed by the 12 singles matches, but further heavy rain on Sunday morning delayed the start until 13:30, leaving insufficient time to complete the singles matches that day. With the weather forecast for the Monday (4 October) being good, the decision was taken to complete the foursomes and fourballs competitions on Sunday and play the whole singles contest on the Monday.

 Content used with permission from Wikipedia

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