The Format of the Tournament
The Ryder Cup Matches involve various match play matches between players selected from two teams of twelve. Currently, the matches consist of eight foursomes matches, eight fourball matches and twelve singles matches. The winner of each match scores a point for their team, with ½ a point each for any match that is tied after 18 holes.
A foursomes match is a competition between two teams of two golfers. The golfers on the same team take alternate shots throughout the match, with the same ball. Each hole is won by the team that completes the hole in the fewest shots. A fourball match is also a competition between two teams of two golfers, but all four golfers play their own ball throughout the round rather than alternating shots, and each hole is won by the team whose individual golfer has the lowest score. A singles match is a standard matchplay competition between two golfers.
The matches take place over three days, Friday through Sunday. On the Friday, there are four fourball matches and four foursomes matches in the afternoon. On the Saturday, the same schedule repeats. On the Sunday, there are twelve singles matches. Not all players need play on Friday and Saturday; the captain can select any eight players for each of the four rounds of play over these two days. The winning team is determined by cumulative total points. Under Ryder Cup rules, the defending champion team from the previous games only needs to halve the cumulative point totals to retain the Cup, while the opposing team must outright win it.
The format has changed over the years. From the inaugural event through 1959 the Ryder Cup was a two-day competition, with four 36-hole foursomes matches on the first day and eight 36-hole singles matches on the second day, for a total of 12 points. In 1961 the matches were changed to 18 holes each but the number of matches was doubled, resulting in a total of 24 points. In 1963 the event was expanded to three days, with eight fourball matches being added on the middle day to make 32 points. This format remained until 1977, when the number of matches was reduced to 20: five foursomes matches on the first day, five fourball matches on the second day, and ten singles matches on the final day. In 1979, the first year continental European players participated, the format was changed to the 28-match version in use today, with eight foursomes/four-ball matches on the first two days and twelve singles matches on the last day.
In 2008 the format for the event will not stay the same as in the previous two Ryder Cup Matches. For the first time since 1999, the opening matches of a Ryder Cup will feature the alternate-shot format. United States captain Paul Azinger, hoping to give his team an early advantage in Kentucky, announced the change on January 30 at the PGA Tour's FBR Open in Phoenix.
Alternate shot, or foursomes, had been used in the first sessions every year since 1981 until European captain Seve Ballesteros opened with better ball (fourballs) in 1997 at Valderrama. U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw switched back to alternate shot in 1999 at Brookline, but the last three Ryder Cup matches have started with better ball.
There are two qualifying sections used for the European selection: The European Tour list and the world ranking points list.
The way in which the United States team will be selected has been revamped for the 2008 competition.
Qualification for the United States team began with the four major championships contested in 2007, and continued from January 1, 2008 until August 11, 2008. The top eight players will automatically qualify for the 2008 United States Ryder Cup Team, with the remaining four places reserved for Captain’s picks. The Captain will make those picks on September 2, 2008.
The selection process will be determined by the following criteria:
Prize money earned in the 2007 Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship - one point for every US$1,000 earned.
Prize money earned in official events in 2008 from January 1 until August 11 - one point for every $1,000 earned, excluding major championships and events played in the same weeks as major championships and World Golf Championships.
Prize money earned in the 2008 major championships - two points for every $1,000 earned.
Prize money earned in 2008 events played in the same weeks as major championships and opposite World Golf Championships between January 1 until August 11 - one-half point for every $1,000 earned.