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The Complete Guide to the Ryder Cup

The absolute pinnacle of team golf at the professional ranks. Ask any player who has been fortunate enough to play for their country at the Ryder Cup. “Were you more nervous on the first tee at the U.S. Open on at the Ryder Cup?”

They will tell you teeing it up at the United States Open was a piece of cake compared to the jitters and anxiety felt at the Ryder Cup. The gravity of playing for your country, your teammates, and your captains is a pressure felt unparalleled to any golf tournament you would ever play as an individual.

This page is going tell you anything you’d ever want to know about the Ryder Cup. From where it’s played to who have captained the teams and all the way into the records- our expert golf team will guide you through this amazing tournament between 24 of the best golfers on the planet.

Let’s get started!

What Is the Ryder Cup?

The Ryder Cup is a highly-respected golf tournament contested over a three-day span of action-packed golf. It is a competition between 12 of the best American golfers pitted against 12 of Europe’s finest players.

The fact that it is only held every other year adds to the prestige of the event. Similar to the Olympics, this added period of time to have to wait for the next Ryder Cup makes it that much more special.

The location of the Ryder Cup alternates between U.S. soil and European soil each time it is hosted.

The Format

The Ryder Cup starts bright and early on a Friday morning. All matches are played under match-play rules. This is not a stroke-play format event like a typical PGA Tournament. Whoever won the previous Ryder Cup is the team that needs to retain the Cup. The losers of the previous Ryder Cup need to win the Cup.

28 matches are played in total.

  • 14.5 points are needed to win the Cup.
  • 14 points are needed to retain the Cup.
  • 8 team matches on Friday.
  • 8 team matches on Saturday.
  • 12 singles matches on Sunday.

The 16 team matches are broken into 8 four-ball matches and 8 foursomes matches.

In both foursomes and four-balls, if the hole is tied, the hole is considered a push and they move onto the next hole. There are no “carry-overs” or anything like that.

Golf IconFour-balls

For those of you unfamiliar with this term, this is also known simply as “best-ball”. In the Ryder Cup, a four-ball match is a showdown between a pair of European players and a pair of Americans.

The four men each play their own ball and each team counts the lower of the two scores.

For Example:

Say Tony and Tom are on a team playing against Bryan and Bill. All four men play their own ball. If Tony makes a 3 and Tom makes a 7, their team records a 3. If Bryan and Bill each make a 4, their team records a 4. 3 beats 4, therefore Tony and Tom win the hole.

Whichever team wins the match earns a point for his team. If the match is “halved” or tied, each team receives a half-point.

Golf IconFoursomes

Foursomes are like they sound- four golfers in a group. The difference here is the format of the match. In the Ryder Cup, the two American players and two European players play alternate shot.

For Example:

Say Tony and Tom are on a team together. Tony will tee off on the odd-numbered holes and Tom will tee off on the even-numbered holes. Tony hits the first shot, Tom hits the second shot, Tony hits the third, Tom hits the fourth, and so on. They alternate until the ball is in the hole. Regardless of who finished, Tony will tee off on the odds while Tom hits first on the evens.

Whichever team records the lower score on the hole, wins the hole. Whichever team wins the match, earns a point for his team. If the match is “halved” or tied, each team receives a half-point.

The Friday and Saturday matches are broken into two sessions.

Golf IconMorning and Afternoon Sessions

Friday and Saturday morning will each feature four team matches. The team hosting the event will choose which format is used in the morning.

For Example:

The 2016 Ryder Cup was played at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Since the U.S. team was hosting the event, they chose to start with foursomes. Friday and Saturday morning, foursomes sessions were played while Friday and Saturday afternoon, four-ball was played.

The key takeaway is that every Ryder Cup is broken down the same way each year.

  • 4 four-ball matches Friday, 4 foursomes matches Friday
  • 4 four-ball matches Saturday, 4 foursomes matches Saturday
  • 12 singles matches
Golf IconSunday Singles

The final day of the Ryder Cup is played in a very straightforward manner. My guys against your guys, “mano a mano”. Each captain sends out his 12 golfers and they play each other head to head in a match play format.

Whichever golfer wins the match earns a point for their team.

Now that you are familiar with the format of the matches and how the tournament is contested, you are probably wondering who gets picked for the team. How do you get chosen to be part of the squad?

The Selection Process

Before we get into the selection process of the 12 players, let’s first take a look at how the captain is chosen.

Golf IconThe U.S. Captain

The PGA of America is in charge of this selection process. The high-standing officials within the group discuss various qualified candidates. There are no “written rules set in stone” for the criteria of a U.S. captain.

However, their policy has been to choose men who were former Ryder Cup players and have won at least one Major.

The candidates are American players that were not only great PGA Tour players in their own right, but they are respected and admired throughout the golfing community. There is a 21-member board of directors that end up placing a vote.

These members include not only gentlemen from the PGA of America but also other independent directors from other committees.

Golf IconThe European Captain

Europe has a similar process to the way the American team selects their captain. The European Tour’s Tournament Committee chooses a potential captain.

The difference is that in Europe, instead of having board members vote on the pick, the European Tours Tournament Committee’s selection must be approved by the Stakeholders Board and by the European Ryder Cup players themselves.

Once accepted, the official captain is announced, and the planning begins.

Golf IconAssistants

The captains first choose three or four assistant captains they want by their side to help manage the team. The captains generally choose their golfing buddies. Not the ones from their country club at home, the guys they competed against.

For example, in 2016, Davis Love chose Fred Couples, Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, and Jim Furyk as his Ryder Cup assistant captains. Bubba Watson was later added as a fifth assistant captain. These are all guys that Love gets along with, respects, and has competed with and against for years.

Each captain and his assistants are responsible for fielding their team.

Golf IconThe U.S. Team – Players

Points are awarded to players based on their performance in tournaments. The bigger the event is, the more points that are on the line.

Whoever is the captain of the U.S. team gets to customize the qualification process to their liking. For example, Jim Furyk has been named as the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain. He came out with his criteria for how the players are able to earn Ryder Cup points.

  • 2017 Major Championships
    • 1 point per $1,000 earned
  • 2017 WGC Events and The Players Championship
    • 1 point per $2,000 earned
  • 2018 Regular Season PGA Tour Events
    • 1 point per $1,000 earned (January 1, 2018 – August 12, 2018)
    • **Opposite Field PGA Tour events will NOT count towards receiving points
  • 2018 Major Championships
    • 2 points per $1,000 earned for the winner
    • 1.5 points per $1,000 earned for all others who make the cut

That is the arrangement Furyk has in place for how United States players will earn points in an attempt to make the team. The top 8 players on the points list as of August 12, 2018, will automatically qualify for the team.

That leaves 4 more slots to make the team. These are considered the “captain’s picks”. Jim Furyk will choose 3 of his 4 captain’s picks on September 3, 2018. His fourth and final selection will come the following week on September 9, 2018.

Golf IconThe European Team – Players

The selection process for the European team has been tweaked over the years. 2018 Captain Thomas Bjørn has made a few adjustments for the 2018 Cup in order to give more weight to the events leading into the Cup at the end of September 2018.

His goal is to have players who are “in proper form” nearing the start of the event. He wants the players who are playing well at the right time to be rewarded. He also wants players that fulfill their duties and play the minimum requirement of four European Tour events in the calendar year to maintain European Tour eligibility.

Essentially you have to be a European Tour member to play the events.

For example, in 2016, Englishman Paul Casey was passed on because the only tour he is a member of is the PGA Tour.

Just like on the U.S. side, points are awarded on a per dollar basis with the bigger and better tournaments carrying more weight. Europe’s sole focus in 2018 is bringing the 12 men to France in September that are playing the best golf at that time – period.

Winning a tournament 10-12 months before the Ryder Cup is great. However, Europe is more interested in who is playing well in July and August.

Ryder Cup History

If you were looking for where all the Ryder Cups have been played and who has come out on top, look no further. Our team took the time to organize the following table. Anytime you want a reference to a specific year, you now have a place to go.

Keep in mind, from the first Ryder Cup in 1927 all the way until 1971, it was played as “USA vs Great Britain”. Irish players were added in 1973 to try and help, but that didn’t work out too well.

It was not until 1979 that the “Great Britain and Ireland” team started to include all other countries in Europe. Perhaps the fact that the Great Britain and Ireland didn’t win a Cup from 1959-1977 had something to do with that? Duh!

1979 was also the year that the “28-points” system was adopted. As you can see below, before 1979, different amounts of total points/matches played were used. From as little as 12 points in the early Ryder Cups to as many as 32 points from 1963-1975, we have seen this trial and error process take shape.

It seems as if they like the “28 number” they implemented, as we have seen no changes to the number of matches played or points available since 1979.

Since the inclusion of all European countries in 1979, the European team has gone 10-8-1 in the Ryder Cup. Certainly, these adjustments have evened out the playing field.

YearCourseWinning TeamScore
1927Worcester CC, MassachusettsUSA9.5-2.5
1929Moortown Golf Club, YorkshireGreat Britain7-5
1931Scioto CC, OhioUSA9-3
1933Southport and Ainsdale GC, LancashireGreat Britain6.5-5.5
1935Ridgewood CC, New JerseyUSA9-3
1937Southport and Ainsdale GC, LancashireUSA8-4
1947Portland GC, OregonUSA11-1
1949Ganton GC, YorkshireUSA7-5
1951Pinehurst #2, North CarolinaUSA9.5-2.5
1953Wentworth Club, SurreyUSA6.5-5.5
1955Thunderbird CC, CaliforniaUSA8-4
1957Lindrick GC, West Riding of YorkshireGreat Britain7-5
1959Eldorado GC, CaliforniaUSA8.5-3.5
1961Royal Lytham & St Annes GC, LancashireUSA14.5-9.5
1963Atlanta Athletic Club, GeorgiaUSA23-9
1965Royal Birkdale GC, LancashireUSA19.5-12.5
1967Champions GC, TexasUSA23.5-8.5
1969Royal Birkdale GC, LancashireTIED16-16
1971Old Warson CC, MissouriUSA18.5-13.5
1973Muirfield, East LothianUSA19-13
1975Laurel Valley GC, PennsylvaniaUSA21-11
1977Royal Lytham & St Annes GC, LancashireUSA12.5-7.5
1979The Greenbrier, West VirginiaUSA17-11
1981Walton Heath GC, SurreyUSA18.5-9.5
1983PGA National GC, FloridaUSA14.5-13.5
1985The Belfry, WarwickshireEurope16.5-11.5
1987Muirfield Village, OhioEurope15-13
1989The Belfry, WarwickshireTIED14-14
1991Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South CarolinaUSA14.5-13.5
1993The Belfry, WarwickshireUSA15-13
1995Oak Hill CC, New YorkEurope14.5-13.5
1997Valderrama GC, AndalusiaEurope14.5-13.5
1999The Country Club, MassachusettsUSA14.5-13.5
2002The Belfry, WarwickshireEurope15.5-12.5
2004Oakland Hills CC, MichiganEurope18.5-9.5
2006K Club, County KildareEurope18.5-9.5
2008Valhalla GC, KentuckyUSA16.5-11.5
2010Celtic Manor Resort, NewportEurope14.5-13.5
2012Medinah CC, IllinoisEurope14.5-13.5
2014Gleneagles, Perth & KinrossEurope16.5-11.5
2016Hazeltine National GC, MinnesotaUSA17-11
2018Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines????
2020Whistling Straits, Wisconsin????
2022Marco Simone Golf and CC, Rome????

Ryder Cup Records

We wanted to share a few of the notable Ryder Cup statistics and records from over the years.

Most Points(USA)Most Points(EUROPE)
Billy Casper23.5Nick Faldo25
Arnold Palmer23Bernhard Langer24
Phil Mickelson21.5Colin Montgomerie23.5
Lanny Wadkins21.5Lee Westwood23
Lee Trevino20Seve Ballesteros22.5
Jack Nickalaus18.5Sergio Garcia20.5
Gene Littler18José María Olazábal20.5
Tom Kite17Tony Jacklin17

Let’s look at the pairings that have been used the most. It is interesting to see how frequently the Europeans kept their two-man teams intact compared to the American side.

The trend has begun to shift as we have seen the United States team employ the same teams on several occasions in the more recent Cups.

European TeamsTimes
Seve Ballesteros – José María Olazábal15
Peter Alliss – Christy O’Connor Sr.12
Bernard Gallacher – Brian Barnes10
Nick Faldo – Ian Woosnam10
Neil Coles – Bernard Hunt, Darren Clarke- Lee Westwood8

United States TeamsTimes
Jordan Spieth – Patrick Reed7
Lanny Wadkins – Larry Nelson6
Tom Kite – Curtis Strange6
Phil Mickelson – David Toms6
Tiger Woods – Steve Stricker6

Who are the youngest Ryder Cup competitors and who are the oldest?

Youngest Players to Compete in a Ryder Cup
United StatesAGEEuropeAGE
Horton Smith20 years, 339 daysSergio Garcia19 years, 258 days
Jordan Spieth21 years, 61 daysNick Faldo20 years, 59 days
Tiger Woods21 years, 270 daysPaul Way20 years. 216 days
Rickie Fowler21 years, 292 daysBernard Gallacher20 years, 221 days

Oldest Players to Compete in a Ryder Cup
United StatesAGEEuropeAGE
Raymond Floyd51 years, 20 daysTed Ray50 years, 67 days
Jay Haas50 years, 290 daysChristy O’Connor Sr.48 years, 273 days
Raymond Floyd 49 years, 23 daysDai Rees48 years, 196 days
Fred Funk48 years, 95 daysGeorge Duncan47 years, 283 days

Summary

The Ryder Cup is the most exciting golf tournament in the entire world. Whether you are lucky enough to go in person or you are just watching the action unfold on television like most of us, you can’t beat the anticipation and exhilaration.

Yeah, yeah, the Majors are great. We love the four Majors and would never discount their significance. But just ask any player who has played in all the Majors and in a Ryder Cup.

Ask them which event made them shake and wobble like a middle school kid meeting Taylor Swift for the first time.

The reason players get so amped up is because they aren’t just playing for themselves. They are playing for their country, their teammates, and their captains.

The nervousness and excitement surrounding the matches is truly something you won’t encounter while watching any other golf tournament.

We hope this page served you well. Our intentions were to guide you through the Ryder Cup, informing you all about the tournament and how it’s played. Sharing some history regarding where the Ryder Cups have been played and who has been victorious was something we made sure to include.

Understanding the selection and qualifying processes for the captains and players can be confusing at times. We hope our explanations served you well in grasping just how the Americans and Europeans earn their way onto the respective teams.

Of course, we all love records. Providing a few of the more noteworthy ones was something we made sure not to forget.

Our goal was for you to be able to pick up all
the valuable information and insight into this great event.

Whether it’s around the corner or not for another 23 months, there’s always someone interested in learning about the Ryder Cup!