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Ryder Cup explained

Golf's big team contest, the Ryder Cup, sees Europe take on the United States for one of sport's most coveted trophies.

The 2008 event takes place from Friday 19 to Sunday 21 September at Valhalla in Kentucky. Here's a guide to the intricacies of the tournament - from matchplay to dormie, fourballs to foursomes.


This is the scoring format used in all Ryder Cup matches.

It means each hole is decided in isolation, rather than strokeplay, which is the cumulative scoring method used in most golf tournaments, including all four majors.

Europe captain Nick Faldo and United States skipper Paul Azinger
Nick Faldo captains Europe and Paul Azinger skippers the United States
In other words, the scores from every hole are not added together to make up a player's total score in matchplay.

The holes are played individually and whoever takes the fewest shots wins that particular hole.

If the players on opposing teams have the same low score, the hole is halved.

Once the match is completed, a point is awarded to the winning team. Where matches finish all-square with no-one leading, a half point is awarded to each side.


In a change for 2008, foursomes are the opening matches played on the Friday and Saturday of the Ryder Cup. They were previously held in the afternoon, following the fourballs. There are four matches on each day.

Only one ball is used by each pairing in foursomes. For example, if Phil Mickelson is paired with Jim Furyk, Mickelson would tee off on a par four, Furyk would hit the approach to the green and then Mickelson putts first, before alternating putts with Furyk, until the hole is completed.

On the next hole, Furyk would tee off, irrespective of who had the last putt on the previous hole as one player tees off on the odd holes, the other the evens.

The team with the lowest score wins the hole.


Fourballs are now the following matches played on the Friday and Saturday of the Ryder Cup, with four matches on each day.

The teams send pairs of players out against each other. The pairings are carefully chosen by the non-playing captain and he can use whichever combination of players he believes will get the right result for his team.

There is no obligation on the captain to choose every player at some stage in either the fourballs or the foursomes contests.

As the word fourballs suggests, there are four balls in play at any time - one for each player.

The player with the lowest score among the four competitors wins the hole for his team.


On the final day of the Ryder Cup, 12 singles matches are played, with everyone going head-to-head in solo contests in one match against a player from the opposing side.

In recent years, the singles matches have been compelling encounters.

At the 2002 Ryder Cup, the scores were level at 8-8 going into the final day, but Europe skipper Sam Torrance gambled by stacking his singles order with the strongest players first, and his side claimed a 15-12 victory.

If a player is injured and cannot compete in the singles, the captain of the opposing team nominates a corresponding player from his own line-up to stand down and not take part.

The 'match' is considered halved and the point is shared, irrespective of which team has the injured party.


A "gimme" - short for "give it to me" - is a putt conceded by an opponent at his discretion when he does not think there is any chance you will miss.

The putt would be too close and too simple to make you go through the motions of finishing the hole.

Only in matchplay golf is this possible, because in strokeplay all shots must be played and a hole has not been completed until the ball is safely in the cup.

Jack Nicklaus famously conceded a tricky putt of Tony Jacklin's on the 18th green at the 1969 Ryder Cup, forcing a tie in the overall contest.

His gesture was seen as generous in the extreme because Jacklin was by no means certain to make the putt, especially at such an important stage of the match and some of Nicklaus' American team-mates were less than pleased with his decision.


The phrase "two up" or "three up" etc indicates the number of holes a player is leading his opponent by.

Conversely, "two down" would be the number of holes a player is trailing by.

In Ryder Cup - and all other matchplay golf - the game is over when a player is more holes ahead than there are left to complete e.g. Three up with two to play, which would be denoted as a 3&2 win.

Results that are decided on the 18th are not shown 1&0 - as in none to play. Where a player is one hole ahead by the time they have left the 18th green, he is said to have won one up.

Similarly, if he is one up before also going on to win the 18th hole, he is said to have won the match two up.

When players are level during the match, it is said to be "all-square". If they are level at the end of 18 holes, the match is "halved".


From the French verb dormir (to sleep), this word indicates when a match has effectively been settled to the extent that one player cannot win, but can only possibly force a draw e.g. three down with three to play.

A half-point in the Ryder Cup is still a cherished acquisition, so players will keep battling until the match has been completely lost.

Finding yourself trailing in a dormie situation may be a crucial psychological blow, but salvaging a half in those circumstances can often seem more like a victory.

Just ask Colin Montgomerie, who was dormie four down with four to play against Mark Calcavecchia in the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island.

Monty won all of the closing holes following a dramatic collapse by Calcavecchia and a half was secured.

SCHEDULE (All times BST)
Friday 1305 Foursomes 1745 Fourballs
Saturday 1305 Foursomes 1745 Fourballs
Sunday 1703 Singles start 1904 Last tee time

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