Well, what is it?

The Ryder Cup is a biennial golf competition contested by teams of 12 players from Europe and the United States of America.

It is played over three days, usually at the back end of September. The venue alternates every two years between continents.

How did it all come about?

The competition is named after Samuel Ryder, a St Albans merchant who made his fortune selling penny seed packets to the public.


Originally competed by teams from the USA and Great Britain & Ireland, there had been informal matches before, including at Wentworth in 1926, but the first ‘official’ match was a year later at Worcester, in Massachusetts.

This doesn’t look like the golf I see every week on the TV…

Very astute of you. The Ryder Cup is a match play competition with a total of 28 matches played. Friday and Saturday sees four sets of fourball and foursomes matches before 12 singles games on Sunday.

Win and you get a point for your team. Draw and it’s a half. Losers get nothing. Teams need a total of 14.5 points to lift the trophy.

But wait – if there’s 28 games there can be a tie, right?

There can indeed. In that instance, the side that won the trophy last time out would retain it. So, in 1989 when Europe and America staged a 14-14 thriller at The Belfry, it was the home side that kept hold of the trophy following their win at Muirfield Village two years previously.

That’s a lovely trophy…

Yes, it is. The cup that’s now synonymous with the highest profile competition in golf is quite something to look at.

It stands 17 inches tall, 9 inches wide and weighs four pounds. That makes it heavier than the FIFA World Cup trophy.


It is thought that Abe Mitchell, who was a professional at Ryder’s home club Verulam and may well have been the businessman’s personal golf tutor, is the figure on top of the trophy.

It cost £250 to make. Members of the winning team receive replica trophies to remember their victory.

So why is it Europe now?

We might all get very excited about the Ryder Cup these days but it was all a bit boring in the 1970s.

Since 1957, the Americans had won every competition – bar a tie in 1969 – and the competition had lost a lot of its lustre.

When Tom Weiskopf was selected and decided not to bother playing in 1977, something had to be done to save the institution.

Jack Nicklaus suggested to the Earl of Derby, then the President of the PGA, that the remit be extended to players from continental Europe and that began two years later. Team Europe was formed.

They won the cup at The Belfry in 1985 and the rivalry once again blossomed.

What does the Captain do?

Once upon a time, back in the days of Walter Hagen, he’d have teed off and taken part. Now, the captain picks wild cards (the majority of his team qualify automatically with performances in Tour tournaments) selects pairings to play in the matches and determines the order they go out in.

He can also set up the course – determining how quick the greens might play and how much rough lines the fairways.

Record breakersCup

Nick Faldo holds the record for the most appearances and points, racking up 11 Ryder Cups and 25 points in a 20-year period between 1977 and 1997.

Only one player, though, has a perfect 100 per cent record (from those who have played at least three matches). Jimmy Demaret won all of the six Ryder Cup games he played in.

Sergio Garcia is the youngest player ever to take part – at 19 years and 258 days. Ray Floyd is the eldest. He was 51 years and 20 days old when he was part of the winning American team in 1993.