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How does Ryder Cup scoring work? Format explained: Fourballs, foursomes and singles

We explore the rules and strategies for each matchplay format at the Ryder Cup, which takes place every two years for one week.

We explore the rules and strategies for each matchplay format at the Ryder Cup, which takes place every two years for one week.

The Ryder Cup distinguishes itself from professional golf’s major events by assembling elite players into team settings.

The USA has not won the Ryder Cup on European soil since 1993, and this September, a dozen American players will journey to Rome to alter that record. Europe, coming off a tough defeat at Whistling Straits, will rely on a fresh group of younger players to gel together under the leadership of captain Luke Donald.

Concerns about another lopsided outcome have diminished, thanks to solid performances by players like Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood, and leaders Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy.

Here’s an explanation of the Ryder Cup format:

How does matchplay work? In contrast to strokeplay events, where the player with the lowest cumulative score wins, the Ryder Cup employs matchplay. Pairs or individuals go head-to-head, and the pair or player with the lowest score on a hole wins that hole and goes “one up.” If they win the next hole, they become “two up,” but if their opponents win the hole, the match returns to “all square.” The match is won when a pair or player leads by more holes than remain, denoted as “3&2″ if they are three up with two holes left. Players can concede close-range putts to their opponents, adding a psychological dimension to the game.

How does the Ryder Cup scoring system work? Europe and the USA engage in eight fourball matches, eight foursomes matches, and 12 singles matches. Each match is worth one point, with ties earning half a point for each team. To win the Ryder Cup, a team needs 14.5 points. If the USA reaches 14 points, they secure at least a tie and retain the Ryder Cup.

On Friday and Saturday, there are four foursome matches in the morning and four fourball matches in the afternoon. Captains must decide which players to field, and pairing players effectively is crucial.

The 12 singles matches take place on Sunday, determining the Ryder Cup winner.

The difference between fourballs and foursomes

  • Fourballs: Two European players face off against two Americans. Each player plays with their ball, and the pair with the lowest individual score on a hole wins that hole. It allows for an aggressive style of play, as there are two chances to secure a hole.
  • Foursomes: Two European players compete against two Americans, but each pair has only one ball in play, with shots taken alternately. This format is quicker but more challenging, as one poor shot can cost a hole. Consistency and accuracy are prized in foursomes, with par often considered a good score.

Singles: One European player faces one American in direct matchplay.