We take a look at the Ryder Cup format, where Europe go up against America in the most exciting contest on the golfing calendar


What Is The Ryder Cup Format?

The Ryder Cup takes place at Whistling Straits this year from September 24-26 after it was pushed back 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It’ll be the 43rd edition of the biennial contest between Team USA and Team Europe, who each take turns to host the tournament.

While the actual golf will begin on the Friday morning, the opening ceremony takes place on the Thursday evening, during which the two captains, Steve Stricker for the USA and Padraig Harrington for Europe, will announce their pairings for the first set of foursomes matches to take place the next day.

In total, 28 matches are contested at the Ryder Cup with each worth one point. For an outright win, the magic number is 14.5, but should both sides accumulate 14 points, the defending champions will retain the Ryder Cup.

There are 12 players on each team, with eight taking part in each foursomes and fourball session, and all 12 battling it out in the Sunday singles.

The format of the matches

Friday’s action consists of four foursomes and fourball matches. The home captain dictates which order these are played in and this year, Steve Stricker has opted for foursomes in the morning followed by fourballs in the afternoon.

This is repeated on Saturday and then on Sunday, there are 12 singles matches during which everyone plays an opponent drawn at random based on the order each captain puts their team out.

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Foursomes is an alternate shot format where teams in pairs take turns on each hole. So one player hits the tee shot and the other will play the next shot from where the ball finishes and so on. This continues until the ball is holed out.

It is a matchplay competition against the other team, so whichever duo takes the fewest shots wins the hole. Players on each team will take turns to tee off, so one will tee off from the even-numbered holes and the other from the odd-numbered holes.

In fourballs, both players from each team play their own ball, so there are four balls in play on every hole. The best score from each team counts in the match, with the lowest score resulting in a win.

The Ryder Cup schedule of play:


AM: Four foursomes matches (4 points to be won)

PM: Four fourball matches (4 points to be won)


AM: Four foursomes matches (4 points to be won)

PM: Four fourball matches (4 points to be won)


12 single matches (12 points to be won)

You can catch all the action live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Golf – or, if you don’t have Sky, check out our guide to watching the Ryder Cup action without having to sign up to Sky Sports.