There's nothing like the Ryder Cup Matches. Even sports fans who wouldn't normally watch golf will take in the drama of the Ryder Cup.
There are so many memorable moments in its history – like the War on the Shore in 1991 at Kiawah Island when Bernard Langer lipped out on 18 from six feet, handing the Americans their first win in eight years. Or 1989 at PGA National when Seve Ballesteros went for broke by hitting a 3-wood out of the fairway bunker from 245 yards out over water on the 18th hole to salvage a halve with American Fuzzy Zoeller. And of course, who could forget Brookline in 1999 when Justin Leonard made the bomb on the 17th hole to complete his comeback against Jose Marie Olazabal and essentially seal the greatest U.S. rally (down 10-6 going into singles) in Ryder Cup history. (Europe would actually overcome a 10-4 deficit in 2012 to win at Medinah Country Club for the biggest comeback of all time.)
Unlike most weeks where individuals vie for championships, the Ryder Cup is about country (or continent) and not letting your teammates down. It's us vs. them, American vs. European pride. For the first time in history, it's taking place in France, Sept. 28-30 on the Albatross Course at Le Golf National in Paris.
In 2016, Team USA got paypack at Hazeltine in Minnesota and won the cup back for the first time since 2008 when they won at Valhalla. With that said, here's a guide (and a bit of a primer) to watching the 2018 matches between the Team USA and Team Europe.
What is the Ryder Cup format for golf?
The Ryder Cup Matches consist of three days of competition – two days of four four-ball and four foursomes competition each day and one day of singles, where all 12 golfers on each team compete in singles matches.
A team gets a point when a twosome or individual wins a match. A draw nets a half point. There are a total of 28 points available. The first team to reach 14 ½ points wins the Cup. If the matches end in an overall tie (14-14) the United States, as defending champion, would retain the Ryder Cup.
In four-balls (four balls in play on each hole) each member of a two-person team plays his own ball. The team counts the lowest of its two scores on each hole, and the team whose golfer has the lowest score wins the hole. If the low scores are tied, the hole is halved.
In foursomes, each two-man team plays one ball per hole with the golfers taking turns until each hole is complete. They alternate hitting tee shots, with one leading off on odd-numbered holes, and the other hitting first on even-numbered holes. The team with the low score on each hole wins that hole. If their scores are tied, the hole is halved.
Unlike a stroke play championship, golfers don't have to complete each hole in match play. If a player concedes a stroke – almost always a putt – to his opponent, the opponent picks up his ball, takes the score he would have made on the next stroke and moves on to the next hole.
What countries play in the Ryder Cup?
Two organizations are stewards of the Ryder Cup. The PGA of America (not the PGA Tour) manages Team USA and determines its captains and U.S. venues, while the European Tour handles Team Europe. Team USA is made up of players strictly from the United States, but anyone from the continent of Europe as well as Great Britain and Ireland are eligible to play on the European Ryder Cup team. This wasn't always the case. The Ryder Cup originally was contested between teams from the United States and Great Britain/Ireland. But because the United States dominated the competition after World War II, the decision was made to expand the GB&I team. In 1979 Spain's Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido, became the first European players from outside of GB&I to play in the Ryder Cup. This year's European team includes countrymen from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Spain.
How are teams chosen for the Ryder Cup?
The U.S. squad is selected from the top eight in the Ryder Cup standings, followed by four wild card picks from U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who also receives input from his appointed vice captains. The standings were determined points by gained at every non-opposite PGA Tour event, WGC events and majors in 2018. Those players in order are Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson. The four wild card picks are Bryon DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Tony Finau.
The European Team is made up of the first four players from the European Points List (Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood), followed by the leading four players from the World Points List (Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen), and completed by four wild cards (Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson) picked by Captain Thomas Bjorn.
How are pairings determined in the Ryder Cup?
Pairings are determined by the captains of the two teams. Each captain submits their two-man teams or singles on Sunday in order, not knowing officially who their opponents will be. The first two days are four-ball and foursome matches, and the order of these matches is determined by the home captain, which in this case is the Europeans' Thomas Bjorn. Some or all of the players might play in foursomes or fourball, but on singles all 12 players from each team will play. Again the captains of each team determine the order of their players during singles with different strategies in mind, some choosing to get off to a quick start by playing their hottest or best players early or perhaps saving a player or two who seems more capable of playing well under pressure for the late matches when the Cup might still be on the line.
Ryder Cup vs. Presidents Cup: What is the difference?
While both of these international team competitions feature teams from the United States, the Presidents Cup replaces Europe with the rest of the world. The competitions are played in alternate years. And while the Ryder Cup dates back to 1927, the Presidents Cup has only been around since 1994, with the United States winning 10 of the 12 Cups with one ending in a tie.
Last year, the Presidents Cup was contested at Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J. The 2019 Presidents Cup is scheduled for Dec. 12-15 at Royal Melbourne in Australia.
The format of the Presidents Cup is also slightly different from the Ryder Cup with the most notable difference being that there are four days of competition instead of three, with the final day ending with 12 singles matches.
How can I watch the Ryder Cup?
NBC and Golf Channel are set to deliver 220 hours of action of Ryder Cup drama during the week.
Complementing live coverage of the competition, Golf Central Live From the Ryder Cup will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 25 on Golf Channel and continue through the duration of the week, offering analysis, features and reaction as the event unfolds. NBC Sports Group will dedicate nearly 30 hours to showcasing live action of the Ryder Cup, featuring all-encompassing coverage from the first tee shot of Friday’s opening match through the conclusion of Sunday’s singles matches (all times EDT):
Friday, Sept, 28: Ryder Cup Day 1, 2 a.m. to 1 p.m., Golf Channel
Saturday, Sept. 29: Ryder Cup Day 2, 2 a.m.-3 p.m., Golf Channel; 2 a.m.-1 p.m., NBC
Sunday, Sept. 30: Ryder Cup Day 3, singles matches, 6 a.m.-1 p.m., NBC
How to get Ryder Cup Tickets
Ryder Cup tickets are among the most sought-after in sports and availability for 2018 is extremely limited, but not impossible. Fans who were seeking general admission tickets through the RyderCup.com website had to preregister before purchasing, and preregistration is closed. But there are still packages and some tickets available through tour operators and the secondary market on tickets. Companies like PrimeSport, for example, are selling all-inclusive packages for the week that start around $4,500. And Stubhub.com has some Sunday singles general admission tickets on sale for around $500.
Tickets for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin are not yet available for purchase, but if you would like to be among the first to know when tickets do become available, you can click here to sign up for updates.
Future Ryder Cup venues
The PGA of America has selected its host Ryder Cup golf courses on US soil thru 2032 (they also recently announced more PGA Championship future hosts), while the European Tour has not selected a venue past 2022.