Every two years, golf fans are treated to what usually develops into an epic battle as United States and Europe clash in the Ryder Cup. The format may have changed over the years, but the Ryder Cup has become the biggest and best team event in golf. Emotions run high, players are pushed to their limits and heroes are created… it is sporting entertainment at its best.
The Ryder Cup is incredibly popular, with millions tuning in to watch the action every two years. Ahead of the 43rd Ryder Cup, the United States had won 26 Ryder Cups with two ties, with Great Britain/Great Britain and Ireland winning three times with one tie and Europe landing 11 wins with one tie.
|Whistling Straits||Sheboygan, Wisconsin||7,790 yards||N/A|
Ryder Cup Recent Winners
|2018||Europe||17 ½ – 10 ½||7 Points||Le Golf National|
|2016||United States||17 - 11||6 Points||Hazeltine National Golf Club|
|2014||Europe||16 ½ - 11 ½||5 Points||Gleneagles|
|2012||Europe||14 ½ - 13 ½||1 Point||Medinah Country Club|
|2010||Europe||14 ½ - 13 ½||1 Point||Celtic Manor Resort|
|2008||United States||16 ½ - 11 ½||5 Points||Valhalla Golf Club|
|2006||Europe||18 ½ - 9 ½||9 Points||K Club|
|2004||Europe||18 ½ - 9 ½||9 Points||Oakland Hills Country Club|
|2002||Europe||15 ½ - 12 ½||3 Points||The Belfry|
|1999||United States||14 ½ - 13 ½||1 Point||Brookline (The Country Club)|
|1997||Europe||14 ½ - 13 ½||1 Point||Valderrama Golf Club|
|1995||Europe||14 ½ - 13 ½||1 Point||Oak Hill Country Club|
|1993||United States||15 - 13||2 Points||The Belfry|
|1991||United States||14 ½ - 13 ½||1 Point||Kiawah Island Golf Resort|
|1989||Tie (Europe retain)||14 - 14||-||The Belfry|
|1987||Europe||15 - 13||2 Points||Muirfield Village|
|1985||Europe||16 ½ - 11 ½||5 Points||The Belfry|
|1983||United States||14 ½ - 13 ½||1 Point||PGA National Golf Club|
|1981||United States||18 ½ - 9 ½||9 Points||Walton Heath Golf Club|
|1979||United States||17 - 11||6 Points||The Greenbrier|
About the Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup is one of the pinnacles in the sport of golf, but it’s also one of very few team events that the players participate in. The majority of tournaments that players enjoy throughout a season are individual ones, with players playing to win that event outright. The Ryder Cup is different in that it’s split into two teams. The two teams are made up of players from Europe and the USA.
The tournament takes place once every two years and usually is played around September/October time, depending on where it’s played. The venues will rotate between Europe and the US with each tournament. The courses that each country chooses to host are also interchangeable and often work on a rota, much like the Open, US PGA and the US Open.
What’s unique about the Ryder Cup is that players aren’t paid a penny to play in it. In fact, they even have to remove all sponsorship and advertising deals from their clothes, shoes and bags before playing. Each team have set uniforms for each day, which are free from advertising. The idea was that the founders wanted to make it about the golf and not the sponsors. Whilst this may seem strange in this day and age, it’s something that all players have massively bought in to and respect.
Great Britain were America’s opponents from the first Ryder Cup in 1927 until 1973 when the team name was changed to Great Britain and Ireland (though players from the Republic of Ireland had been playing for Great Britain since Harry Bradshaw played for them in 1953). European golfers were introduced in 1979, at which point the team name was change to Europe.
Each team consists of 12 players in total, although is worth remembering that the only round that all players play in at the Ryder Cup is the last day in the singles matches.
Both the European team and the USA team has a captain who often goes on to select a number of vice-captains to aid in decisions making. The captain plays a pivotal role in the makeup of the team as they are allowed to select a number of wild card picks, know as captain’s picks. Recent captains are shown in the table below with winning captains highlighted in bold.
Ryder Cup 2018 Captains: 2002 – 2021
|Year||European Captain||USA Captains|
|2021||Padraig Harrington||Steve Stricker|
|2018||Thomas Bjorn||Jim Furyk|
|2016||Darren Clarke||Davis Love III|
|2014||Paul McGinley||Tom Watson|
|2012||Jose Maria Olazabal||Davis Love III|
|2010||Colin Montgomerie||Corey Pavin|
|2008||Nick Faldo||Paul Azinger|
|2006||Ian Woosnam||Tom Lehman|
|2004||Bernhard Langer||Hal Sutton|
|2002||Sam Torrance||Curtis Strange|
They get to choose several months out from the start of a Ryder Cup the number of picks they want to choose. It’s usually between 3 or 4 picks, meaning that 8 or 9 players will gain automatic qualifying spots. However they decide to work it, they will only ever be able to choose a maximum of 12 players at any one time.
The selection of the captain rotates each year and is usually chosen by members of each tour. Committee members will decide who they want to include from a shortlist before then choosing who they think will be best matched.
After selecting their team, the captain then has the role of choosing who plays with who and when they are going to be playing. The format of the Ryder Cup means that they don’t need to make these decisions until after each season has been completed, but it’s often thought as being one of the most interesting aspects of the Ryder Cup, seeing which pairings will be playing against each other in the blind draw.
For the European Team, the players are selected using a formula based on World ranking points in the 12 months prior to the Ryder Cup and prize money won in official European Tour events in the 12 months prior as well. It’s worth noting that should a player not be registered with the European Tour then they will be ineligible to play for the European team.
European Ryder Cup Teams: 2014 – 2018
|Francesco Molinari||Rory McIlroy||Rory McIlroy|
|Justin Rose||Danny Willett||Henrik Stenson|
|Tyrrell Hatton||Henrik Stenson||Victor Dubuisson|
|Tommy Fleetwood||Chris Wood||Jamie Donaldson|
|Jon Rahm||Sergio Garcia||Sergio Garcia|
|Rory McIlroy||Rafa Cabrera-Bello||Justin Rose|
|Alex Noren||Justin Rose||Martin Kaymer|
|Thorbjorn Olesen||Andy Sullivan||Thomas Bjorn|
|Ian Poulter (CP)||Matthew Fitzpatrick||Graeme McDowell|
|Paul Casey (CP)||Thomas Pieters (CP)||Stephen Gallacher (CP)|
|Sergio Garcia (CP)||Martin Kaymer (CP)||Ian Poulter (CP)|
|Henrik Stenson (CP)||Lee Westwood (CP)||Lee Westwood (CP)|
The American team use the prize money earned on the PGA Tour along with prize money won at any of the majors from the previous 12 months for their algorithm.
USA Ryder Cup Teams: 2014 – 2018
|Brooks Koepka||Dustin Johnson||Bubba Watson|
|Dustin Johnson||Jordan Spieth||Rickie Fowler|
|Justin Thomas||Phil Mickelson||Jim Furyk|
|Patrick Reed||Patrick Reed||Jimmy Walker|
|Bubba Watson||Jimmy Walker||Phil Mickelson|
|Jordan Spieth||Brooks Koepka||Matt Kuchar|
|Rickie Fowler||Brandt Snedeker||Jordan Spieth|
|Webb Simpson||Zach Johnson||Patrick Reed|
|Bryson DeChambeau (CP)||J.B. Holmes (CP)||Zach Johnson|
|Phil Mickelson (CP)||Rickie Fowler (CP)||Keegan Bradley (CP)|
|Tiger Woods (CP)||Matt Kuchar (CP)||Webb Simpson (CP)|
|Tony Finau (CP)||Ryan Moore (CP)||Hunter Mahan (CP)|
Day by Day Format
The Ryder Cup takes place over 3 days and on each day there will be a different format of games that are played. The tournament is a Match play event, meaning that player “win holes” rather than take their overall score.
For the first two days the teams are split into 2-balls. The final day the players play single matches for the first and only time. I total there are 28 matches played throughout the 3 days and with it 28 points up for grabs. 1 point is awarded for a win and ½ a point awarded to each team for a tie. The losing team receive no points.
The current holders of the Ryder Cup only need to draw the event to retain the cup. So, if the teams were tied at 14 points apiece after the 3 days, then the previous winners would retain the cup. A tie has only occurred once in the history of the event in 1989, where Europe retained the cup after winning the previous Ryder Cup.
Days 1 & 2 – Fourballs & Foursomes
The first two days are a mix of Fourballs and Foursomes. Each day usually starts with the fourballs in the morning session and then the foursomes in the afternoon session.
The fourballs is where there are four players in total, 2 on each team. Each player plays their own ball and finishes the hole, trying to get the lowest score possible. The two players on the same team then take the lowest score from that hole and put it against their opponents. The team with the lowest score wins the hole and 1 point. If teams tie, then the hole is ‘halved’ and no scores are added.
There are 4 games of this format played on the morning of each day. Each team consists of 2 players, with a total of 8. A team that wins overall against their opponents gains 1 point for the overall score. A game that has been tied, receive ½ point for either team and the losing team receives no points.
Foursomes again includes two teams of two players. The difference for this is that players will play with 1 ball on each hole and then take alternative shots. So, one player will take the tee shot and then the next player will play and so on, until the ball is in the hole.
It’s worth noting that each player takes tee shots on alternative holes. So, if one player tee’s off from hole 1, then the other player will tee off from hole, this is regardless if they have played the last shot on the previous hole or not.
Again, the team with the lowest score for the hole will win 1 point for their team. A tied hole will result in a half and if you lose the hole, you get no points.
Day 3 – Singles
Day three is the first and only time that all 12 players on each team take to the course. For this format they play a straight match play style one versus one. The captains decide the playing order of their players and they are then matched up to their opponents according to how they are drawn.
The final day is often the most exciting as it’s the time when the most points are on offer. Scoring can quickly switch and the momentum that teams get is often quite infectious, with players well aware of overall and other teams scores from around the course.
Just a quick note on scoring: in match play, points are referred to as ‘up’ or ‘down’. So, if a team wins the first hole, they are 1 Up. If they then go on to tie the 2nd hole, they remain 1 Up. If they win the 3rd hole, they go 2 Up. If they then lose the 4th hole, they go back to just 1 Up, and so on.
In a match, the teams don’t necessarily need to play out all 18 holes to win. If a team is more points ahead than holes remaining, then they will come off marking a win. For example, wins are often classed as “5 and 4”, which means that the team is 5 holes up, with 4 holes to play. Essentially saying the other team can’t win or draw.
To illustrate how the scores work, below is a table of the results from each day of recent Ryder Cups.
Ryder Cup Day by Day Scores: 1999 – 2018
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Total||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Total|
|2018||5||5||7 ½||17 ½||3||3||4 ½||10 ½|
|2016||3||3 ½||4 ½||11||5||4 ½||7 ½||17|
|2014||5||5||6 ½||16 ½||3||3||5 ½||11 ½|
|2012||3||3||8 ½||14 ½||5||5||3 ½||13 ½|
|2010||4||5 ½||5||14 ½||6||½||7||13 ½|
|2008||2 ½||4 ½||4 ½||11 ½||5 ½||3 ½||7 ½||16 ½|
|2006||5||5||8 ½||18 ½||3||3||3 ½||9 ½|
|2004||6 ½||4 ½||7 ½||18 ½||1 ½||3 ½||4 ½||9 ½|
|2002||4 ½||3 ½||7 ½||15 ½||3 ½||4 ½||4 ½||12 ½|
|1999||6||4||3 ½||13 ½||2||4||8 ½||14 ½|
As stated above, the courses alternate each year and are chosen by a panel from each tour. The US host one year, then Europe will host the next event, 2 years later. Below is a list of the next 3 courses already chosen for the Ryder Cup.
Upcoming Ryder Cup Venues
|2022||Italy||Marco Simone Golf and Country Club|
|2024||USA||Bethpage State Park, NY|
Since the Ryder Cup changed from Great Britain and Ireland team to Europe in 1979, the current score between the two sides is 12-8 to Europe. Prior to the inclusion of European players, Great Britain and Ireland had a pretty shoddy record, being down 19-3 from the first Ryder Cup in 1927, to the last of the Great Britain & Ireland teams in 1977.
Since 1979, most of the Ryder Cup’s have been pretty competitive, with the largest margin of victory occurring 3 times with scores of 18 ½ – 9 ½. Two of these results have been European victories and one has been a US victory.
In terms of singles statistics, Nick Faldo has to go down as one of, if not the greatest player in the tournament. In his career he managed to win 25 points for team. He lost just 19 of his 46 matches which is possibly a record that might never be broken. Faldo is only bettered by Sergio Garcia who moved to 25.5 points after 2018.
In terms of single matches played, there are 5 players that are all tied on 7 points. These are Colin Montgomerie, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer and Neil Coles. But, only Jimmy Demaret has a 100% record, with 6 wins from 6 matches (minimum of 3 Ryder Cup appearances).
Sergio Garcia of Spain is the youngest player to have played in the Ryder Cup, aged just 19 years and 258 days. Whilst Raymond Floyd is the oldest player, aged 51 years and 20 days in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, US.
Europe’s Recent Dominance
Europe head to the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin as the reigning champions. The Europeans won the trophy back in France in 2018 (17½- 10½) after losing 17-11 in Minnesota two years prior.
However, that victory for the Americans in 2016 remains their only success since 2008. Team Europe have dominated the Ryder Cup over the past decade or so, winning four of the last five. As for USA, they have won this competition just twice since the turn of the century.
When Team Europe were introduced in 1979, USA won the first three Ryder Cups before Europe eventually reigned supreme at The Belfry in Warwickshire in 1985. This win marked the tables having turned: Team USA have not won on British soil since the 1993 Ryder Cup, which also took place at The Belfry and from 1995 to 2018 there have been 11 wins for Europe, five for USA and one tie (1989).
The Ryder Cup actually came about by chance when the then Golf Illustrated editor, James D. Harnett, wrote to the PGA of America requesting that team of American were to come over and play the British Open in an attempt to boost the appeal of the tournament around the world.
The PGA Duly accepted and ended up sending 11 men over to take part, essentially going head to head with the British. They were set to play a warm up tournament a week before The Open, but to pass time decided on a match play format the day before to hone their skills even more. This consisted of two teams of 10, with 5 foursomes in the morning and 10 singles in the afternoon. Great Britain ended up winning 9 points to 3.
As the Open Championship continued to flourish, the number of American’s that were wanting to play it in increased year on year. There were several team games set up prior to the Open over the coming years, but it wasn’t until 1927 when it took its more formal name of the Ryder Cup and was widely renowned as recognised tournament, albeit, playing for pride.
Logistically and financially, the annual contest became less viable and was scrapped and replaced in favour for the bi-annual event that we see today.
The biggest change to the Ryder Cup since then game about in 1977 when the introduction of European golfers were added. The change of format was a driving force of Jack Nicklaus, who decided that the games were becoming too one-sided and an increase in participants for the GB and Ireland team to select from would benefit the Ryder Cup as a whole.
The change took about from the 1979 tournament onwards and has been a revelation for an event that was starting to lose its appeal given the consistent American victories over the years.
The Ryder Cup is named after Samuel Ryder, who was an English businessman and golf enthusiast. He actually made his money selling seeds for the garden in small packets that cost a penny and were sent through the post. It proved a very successful concept. He paid in the region of £300 for the trophy to be created by the prestigious jeweller Mappin & Webb (who have created jewellery for royalty and others across the globe, including Queen Elizabeth II.
As mentioned above, the first official Ryder Cup competition was held at Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts in June 1927. The United States won the inaugural competition by a 9½-2½ scoreline. The US team was captained by Walter Hagen – as it was for all six Ryder Cups that took place before World War II. Hagen was one of the true greats of the game and is third on the list of all-time major winners with 11 to his name (Jack Nicklaus has 18 and Tiger Woods 15).
Nicklaus Tying with Tony Jacklin
The 1969 Ryder Cup will always go down as one of the most memorable sporting occasions ever. The scores ended in a 16-16 tie, which was actually a pretty good result for Great Britain and Ireland, given their horrid record in the tournament previously.
The game went down to the very last match between Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. With the scores tied at 15 ½ each, it was Nicklaus who had the lead over Jacklin coming down the 17th hole. Jacklin managed to level the match up with an eagle put to make it all square with 1 to play.
The pair fired to the par 5 18th green in two, with Nicklaus rolling his putt some 5 foot past the pin and Jacklin to 3-foot past. After Nicklaus had holed out for birdie, Jacklin was left with an awful 3-footer to tie the match and take a tied game for Great Britain and Ireland.
Nicklaus, after rolling in his put, picked Jacklin’s marker up to tie the match and the Ryder Cup in an act of sporting greatness, saving Jacklin from having to make the put to tie.
History in New York
Europe’s first victory on American turf came in Ohio in 1987, but their second win away from home will always be fondly remembered. It was the 1995 Ryder Cup at the East Course of Oak Hill Country Club in New York.
The 1995 edition of the Ryder Cup would become known as “Choke Hill”, as the USA Team squandered a lead to gift the Europeans the trophy. Incredibly, Europe picked up 7½ points in the singles, with America losing five of the last seven matches. In the end, Bernard Gallacher’s boys won 14½-13½ in a thrilling competition at Oak Hill. Englishman David Gilford – who only ever won six tournaments on the European Tour during his careers – was the top European points scorer with three wins from his four matches, but this one was as much about the US team collapsing as Europe out-performing them.
Monty’s Magical Ryder Cup Impact
Colin Montgomerie is arguably the Ryder Cup’s most recognized player, and despite being one of the best players ever never to win a major, he almost always brought his A game to the Ryder Cup. The Scottish star played in every Ryder Cup from 1991 to 2006, securing a perfect record of 8-0 in singles play during that time.
The most memorable victory was his final success over David Toms at The K Club in 2006. Europe dominated the tournament, with Montgomerie’s singles win helping the Europeans on their way to a third successive Ryder Cup success. Four years later, Monty captained Europe to victory at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales. Montgomerie has been the top (or joint top) European scorer on three occasions: 4½/5 in 2002, and 3½/5 in both 1999 and 1997. He might never have landed that illusive major, but there is no doubt he has had a significant positive impact on Europe’s Ryder Cup escapades over the years.
Leonard’s Crazy Celebrations at Brookline
Europe have pulled off some memorable comebacks over the years, but America have had their fair share of moments too. Brookline is probably one of the most talked about Ryder Cup’s but unfortunately, for the wrong reasons.
Back in the 1999 Ryder Cup in Massachusetts, Europe’s run of two straight wins came to an end, the American’s went on to win the tight affair 14 ½ – 13 ½ at The Country Club after a remarkable comeback on the last day singles, coming from 10-6 down and taking the singles 8 ½ – 3 ½.
The final Ryder Cup tournament of the 20th century will always be remembered for ensued on the 17th green in a match between Justin Leonard and Spaniard, Jose Maria Olazabal. Both players had a putt for birdie on the final green. If Leonard were to make his and Olazabal miss, the game and the Ryder Cup would be won by the USA. However, as the game was all square, a putt that matched Leonard’s would mean they went down to 18 to battle it out.
Leonard went on to make his putt which triggered huge scenes of celebration from the American team, fans and wives, many of which encroached onto the putting surface. This was all before Olazabal had taken his putt to halve the hole.
After players had cleared the green, Olazabal went on to miss his putt and so, the USA secured the half point they needed to win the Ryder Cup. The fallout from the American’s reaction prior to Olazabal taking his putt was not greeted well with players and representatives from Europe.
The majority of the American players have since apologised about their behaviour, but it was definitely an event where the bad blood between the two teams scaled new heights.
Miracle at Medinah
The Ryder Cup has produced many thrills and spills over the years, but the 2012 showdown in Illinois will take some stopping. In what was arguably the greatest Ryder Cup of all time, Team Europe edged out USA by a narrow 14½-13½ scoreline.
The Miracle at Medinah was in stark contrast to Brookline for the European team and more specifically for Olazabal who captained the team in 2012.
The United States team dominated the first two days of play at Medinah Golf Club with Europe finding themselves 10-6 down after the first two days, leaving America needing just 4 ½ points on the final Sunday to win the Ryder Cup. That was after a late fightback on Saturday which left Europe with 6 points rather than what was looking like 4 points. This sparked what was to be a momentous comeback.
Europe came out firing on all cylinders in the Sunday singles matches, winning the first five. With Francesco Molinari and Tiger Woods sharing the final hole, Martin Kaymer’s win over Steve Stricker was enough for the Europeans who won the final day 8 ½ points to 3 ½.
It was a stunning comeback victory by Team Europe, who needed a miracle in the singles play to get the better of Team USA on American soil after trailing 10-5 at one point. Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Paul Lawrie all did their bit to help Europe to a famous win, especially Poulter who scored birdies on each of his final five holes to win his match and give the Europeans they needed to claim the famous victory. Poulter won all 4 of matches he was involved in in 2012.