How do Ryder Cup points work? Format, points system and tiebreakers explained
All the details about how the Ryder Cup format works, including points, matchplay golf and tiebreakers.
The PGA Tour season has now come to a close, making way for the most exciting, most historic and most important team event in golf.
The Ryder Cup is headed to Italy for the first time ever, with Team Europe hoping home advantage will help them steal the iconic trophy back from Team USA.
Over three special days at the end of September, a collection of the best golfers on the planet will descend on Rome to compete for the honour of their countries and continents.
This year Europe’s lineup features three of the top four seeds in the world plus, in Ludvig Aberg, the first golfer to play in a Ryder Cup without ever competing in a major. The team from across the Atlantic, meanwhile, have the best golfer in the world, plus five of the remaining top ten.
Everything is set up for a weekend full of drama, intrigue and exceptional golf in a format that strays from standard tournaments across the world.
More like this
RadioTimes.com brings you all the details on how the Ryder Cup points system works, including more about matchplay golf and tiebreakers involved.
Ryder Cup matchplay format
If you’ve watched any of the PGA Tour’s regular tournaments, like the Masters or the US Open, then the chances are you’ve watched strokeplay golf. This is the standard in golf tournaments, where every player keeps their own score over four rounds. Whoever has completed the 72 holes in the fewest shots wins.
Instead of strokeplay, the Ryder Cup uses match play. In match play, players compete against specific opposition golfers, either alone or in pairs. Their score is not tracked over the whole course, just over the individual hole.
The player or pairing who scores lowest on each hole wins a point. So if a Team Europe player shoots par on a hole while his designated Team USA opponent finishes the hole with a bogey, the Team Europe player will win that hole and go one point up. This continues until the points advantage is larger than the amount of holes left to play in the matchup. If both players or pairs finish level after all 18 holes, the matchup is halved and both teams add one half point to their overall scores.
On the mornings of Friday 29th and Saturday 30th September, we will see four matches of foursomes, pairs playing alternate shots on the course. For example, if Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick are chosen by the Team Europe captain to team up, they will take shots in turn around the course, with each playing from where the other finished their turn.
In the afternoons of these days, we will see four matches of fourball. In this match type, four players will play the hole as if playing individually. The lowest score from each team’s pairing counts as that team’s score for that hole. For example, if Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa are chosen by the Team USA captain to team up, they will both play the full first hole. If Scheffler finishes with a birdie and Homa ends with a par, Team USA would get a birdie for this hole.
The final day of play, Sunday 30th September, will see 12 singles matchups. This is the only day all 24 golfers compete, with four players from each team sitting out each day during the fourball and foursomes formats.
How do Ryder Cup points work?
As there are eight pairs matchups on Saturday, eight pairs matchups on Sunday and 12 individual matchups on Monday, there are 28 points available over the weekend. Win your pairs or solo matchup and you win a point for your team.
It takes a minimum of 14 and a half points for a team to win the Ryder Cup. At the last Ryder Cup in 2021, Team USA beat Team Europe 19 points to 9.
Ryder Cup tiebreakers
In most strokeplay golf events, if two golfers finish the 72 holes on the same lowest score, they then play a tiebreaker hole, called a playoff. If both players finish this playoff hole in the same amount of shots, another playoff hole is played. This continues until the players are separated in their score and a winner is crowned.
Nothing like this will happen at the Ryder Cup. If a matchup is drawn over the 18 holes the team point is halved, with half a point added to each team’s score. There are no extra holes played at the Ryder Cup.
If after the three days of play Team Europe and Team USA finish on the same amount of points (14-14), the Ryder Cup is drawn. The holders of the Ryder Cup would then retain the trophy, which this year means Team USA, having won it most recently in 2021.
This happened just last week in the women’s version of the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup. Team Europe and Team USA tied the event 14-14 which meant Team Europe, the holders of the Solheim Cup, retained the trophy.
Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10, PLUS a £10 John Lewis and Partners voucher delivered to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.