The Niggle: Foursomes or fourballs? Which is better?

As the Ryder Cup draws near we debate which pairing format is the ultimate

So the thrills and spills of The Ryder Cup are nearly upon us in what’s surely the best and most exciting team sporting event on the planet?

As we know, the first two days are split into foursomes and fourballs but which do you prefer to play when attempting to re-create your own Ryder Cup magic?

James Savage and Mark Townsend give their preferences.

JS – Fourballs is the format for me. I like having the chance to play well and get the job done regardless of what my partner does. However, it still has a great team and tactical element and potentially more drama. 

MT – Can’t think of any format which is more dramatic than foursomes. You stripe one down the middle of the fairway and the next time you have a club in your hands you have a gorse bush up your back passage.

JS – You may enjoy that kind of drama. Nothing beats those the conversations with your fourball partner along the lines of ‘you get your five, then I can really have a go at this 40 footer for birdie’.
I like that you can go a whole round without having to hit a chip" MT – That’s part of the reason I’m not that big a fan of fourballs. You should play your own game but then spend most of your time fretting about what your partner is up to and how many shots your opponents are getting. You also hit an awful lot of long putts 10 feet past before always announcing that it was ‘worth having a go’. 

JS – So other than fumbling around in the gorse bushes, what do you actually like about foursomes? I much prefer the format which allows you to play a full, proper round of golf.

MT – I like that you are part of a team, wherever your partner goes, you follow. I like that it piles on all sorts of pressure. I like that you think differently to every other round of golf. I like that you can go a whole round without having to hit a chip. I like the strategy of trying to work out who might be able to avoid hitting, say, a long iron. It’s quick, throws up all sorts of different challenges and, win or lose, you have done so as a team. 

JS – Ok, when you put it like that it sounds quite appealing. But it hinges on having the right partner, someone you can trust, someone you get on with. I prefer fourballs because you get the best of both worlds. When you need to be a team, you can be a team. Sometimes you haven’t got anyone to hold your hand and you need to get the job done on your own.

MT – And therein lies the beauty of it. Fourballs is singles but with various irritants. Foursomes is the ultimate team format in an individual sport. And if you do find someone you can trust and get on with then there’s every chance that will be shattered at the end of one round.



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