Golf is mainly an individual sport contested in a stroke-play format. The vast majority of tournaments consist of four rounds of 18 holes. There is a cut after 36 holes and any player who does not qualify for the final two rounds does not receive a cheque. There have been attempts to introduce some variety but professionals seem quite content with the current arrangements. They know where they stand and it’s a simple scenario: make the cut and win money, miss the cut and miss out. Professional golf is the extreme version of zero hours contracts.
Very few golf tournaments thrive as a team event played as matchplay. The biggest and best is the Ryder Cup and the few imitations are not as good. The match is played every two years between 12 gofers from the United States and Europe. The host courses alternates between the two continents. The best courses in America and Europe host the biennial event. Home advantage should be key to the outcome but that is not always the case. However, it takes a special team to win the Ryder Cup oversees. The 2018 match is being played at Le Golf National just outside Paris.
The forerunner to the current Ryder Cup was a team event of the same name between the United States and Great Britain and Ireland. The match was not competitive towards the end of its life and the inclusion of players from continental Europe in 1979 changed the dynamic. Suddenly the Ryder Cup was worth winning and that added to the level of competitiveness and interest. The Ryder Cup is now the premier sports event that brings together professionals from the two continents. The President’s Cup is a US v Rest of the World event but it’s not really caught on.
Severiano Ballesteros from Spain was passionate about the Ryder Cup. He held a long-standing grudge against the PGA Tour and beating the best players from the United States on behalf of Europe became a crusade. His partnership with compatriot Jose-Maria Olazabal contributed many points to the team cause. There are 28 points to play for in the current format. Sixteen matches involve pairings in foursomes and four balls and all 12 team members play a singles match on the third and final day. Despite the high-profile nature of the Ryder Cup there is no prize money.
In 2018 (September 28 to 30) matches are played over 18 holes. There are four four balls and foursomes on the first two days (Friday and Saturday) and 12 singles on the Sunday. The format is matchplay which means the player or pairing that completes a hole in the fewest shots wins the hole. If scores are tied the outcome is a half and no player or team goes a hole up. If the holes score is level after 18 holes the match is a draw and both teams receive half a point.
As defending champions the US need 14 points to retain the trophy hut Europe need a half point more to win it. The Americans last won the Ryder Cup in Europe in 1993. On world rankings and experience the United States can beat the home side this time and keep the trophy for another two years. .