Team USA Ryder Cup Pod System Explained

During the Ryder Cup you may well hear about the USA's 'Pod System'... So what is it?

Spieth and Thomas pictured
(Image credit: Getty Images)

During the Ryder Cup you may well hear about the USA's 'Pod System'... So what is it?

Team USA Ryder Cup Pod System Explained

The Ryder Cup is returns for the first time in three years due to the Covid-19 postponement.

The Americans have been somewhat rejuvenated over the past few years thanks to their Task Force and Pod System.

The Pod System started in 2008 was used in both 2016 and 2018 too.

So how does it work?

Team USA Ryder Cup Pod System Explained

Back in 2008, USA Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger introduced the Pod System as a way to unite his team against a European side already united due to the fact that players have tended to travel and integrate together more over in Europe than the Americans do on the PGA Tour.

There was also an element of the Europeans uniting more for the European Tour as a whole due to the fact that is smaller in size than the American equivalent.

Europe also has that 'underdog' spirit.

Azinger realised that the Europeans were naturally already in pods, due to their different nations and languages spoken.

He tried to re-create that with his USA team, so broke the 12 players up into three 'pods' or families of four players, where the team members would work in smaller groups to help team morale and create close-knit groups fighting for the side.

Azinger even got his pods, three men each at the time, to choose one wildcard pick each.

Azinger's Pod System worked wonders in 2008. (Photo by Fred Vuich /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

That group of four then plays together in all of the practice days and the pairings are made from those four players for a total of three different teams from each pod.

It also allowed the smaller groups to try out each other's golf ball in preparation for the foursomes.

Related: Whose ball do they use in foursomes at the Ryder Cup?

Also, three of the five vice captains are then assigned to one pod each.

This worked very well in 2008, where Azinger's side won 16.5 - 11.5 at Valhalla for the USA's first Ryder Cup victory since 1999.

The USA then went away from the Pod System and lost in 2010, 2012 and 2014, but Davis Love III then went back to it in 2016 and it paid off as the USA won 17-11.

One of the reasons for the Pod System returned in 2016 was the Task Force, which was created after the 2014 match at Gleneagles where Phil Mickelson publicly questioned Tom Watson's methods at the post-match press conference.

“We had a great formula in ’08. I don’t know why we strayed,” Mickelson said after the USA's 16.5 - 11.5 defeat.

“I don’t know why we don’t go back. What Zinger did was great.

“There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process.

"He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod."

Team USA Ryder Cup Pods 2018

Tiger Woods Patrick Reed Jordan Spieth Justin Thomas

Rickie Fowler Dustin Johnson Phil Mickelson Bryson DeChambeau

Tony Finau Bubba Watson Webb Simpson Brooks Koepka

Team USA Ryder Cup Pods 2021 - suspected, based on Tuesday practice groups

Bryson DeChambeau Scottie Scheffler Jordan Spieth Justin Thomas

Patrick Cantlay Dustin Johnson Collin Morikawa Xander Schauffele

Daniel Berger Harris English Tony Finau Brooks Koepka

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!


Elliott is currently playing:


Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x