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The Ryder Cup format

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 22, 2002

MATCH PLAY VS. STROKE PLAY: Almost every tournament in professional golf is stroke play. Match play is used for the Ryder Cup, and the difference is considerable.

In a stroke-play tournament, players count every shot for 18 holes and put their score up against the rest of the field.

In match play, each golfer has an opponent and they play hole-by-hole, with no regard to what other players are doing. Because it is a game played by holes, a hole is won by the player (or team) who takes the fewest strokes. The score is kept by the number of holes up (won) and the number of holes to play.

For example, if a player has won two more holes than his opponent, he is 2-up. If he is 2-up with one hole to play, the match is over and it is scored a 2-and-1 victory. If he is 3-up with two holes to play, the match is over and it is scored a 3-and-2 victory. If he is 1-up with one hole to play and wins the last hole, he wins 2-up. If he halves (or ties) the last hole, he wins 1-up. In the Ryder Cup, ties are not broken.

* * *

FORMAT: The first two days consist of four foursomes matches (two-man teams in alternate shot) and four four-ball matches (two-man teams in better ball). The final day is 12 individual matches. Each match is worth one point for a total 28. The side with the most points at the conclusion wins. If the teams are tied at 14, the United States would retain the Cup because it won the last Ryder Cup. To win, a team needs 14 1/2 points.

* * *

WHAT IS FOURSOMES? Four groups of two-man teams. Two golfers compete as a team against two others, and each side plays one ball. They play alternate shot (player A hits a tee shot, player B hits the second shot, player A hits the third shot, etc.) until the hole is played out. Team members alternate playing the tee shots. The team with the better score wins the hole. Should the teams tie, the hole is halved.

* * *

WHAT IS FOUR-BALL? Four groups of two-man teams. Each member of the two-man team plays his own ball. Four balls are in play per hole with each of the four players recording a score. The team whose player posts the best score on that hole wins the hole. Should players from each team tie for the best score, the hole is halved. The worst score for each team is discarded.

* * *

WHAT IS A SINGLES MATCH? Twelve groups of one-man teams. The final-day format, in singles one player competes against another.

* * *

HOW ARE PAIRINGS DETERMINED?: Each captain selects the order for his team without the knowledge of the other captain's order.

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