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Ryder Cup FAQS: Scoring, history, format, and how it works

Here's what the Ryder Cup is, how the teams are picked, how it is scored, the format of the matches, and how to win golf's prestigious biennial event.

WHAT IS THE RYDER CUP? In its current form, the Ryder Cup is a competition between one golf team from the United States and a one from Europe that is played every other year. The first Ryder Cup was played in 1927. Since 1979, the competition has consisted of two days of four-ball and foursome matches, and one day of singles matches.

WHEN IS THE RYDER CUP? The 2018 Ryder Cup starts Friday, September 28 and ends on Sunday, September 30.

WHERE IS THE RYDER CUP? The location of the Ryder Cup alternates between Europe and the United States. The last Ryder Cup, in 2016, was in the United States, at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. This year, the 2018 Ryder Cup will be played at Le Golf National in Paris, France.

HOW ARE THE RYDER CUP TEAMS MADE? In 2018, U.S. players gain points at every non-opposite PGA Tour event, WGC and major through the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive, concluding on August 12, 2018.

At that time, Captain Jim Furyk will have his first eight players -- automatic qualifiers.

The four remaining slots on the U.S. Team will be Captain's Selections. Three selections will be announced by Captain Jim Furyk following the Dell Technologies Championship scheduled to be completed on Sept. 3, 2018, and the final selection will be announced after the BMW Championship, which is slated to be completed on Sept. 9, 2018.

The European Team, captained by Thomas Bjørn, will comprise the first four players from the European Points List, followed by the leading four players from the World Points List and completed by four wild cards. 

View the current player rankings for each team

WHAT IS THE FORMAT OF RYDER CUP MATCHES? The first two days of competition feature four-ball and foursomes matches. The order is determined by the home captain. The third day consists of 12 singles matches.

  • In four-balls, each member of a two-man team plays his own ball, so four balls are in play on every hole. Each team counts the lowest of its two scores on each hole, and the team whose player has the lowest score wins the hole. If the low scores are tied, the hole is halved.
  • In foursomes, each two-man team plays one ball per hole with the players taking turns until each hole is complete. Players alternate hitting tee shots, with one leading off on odd-numbered holes, and the other hitting first on even-numbered holes. The team with the low score on each hole wins that hole. If their scores are tied, the hole is halved.
  • In singles, each match features one player from each team. The player with the lower score on each hole wins that hole. If their scores are tied, the hole is halved.
  • Unlike stroke play, players don't have to complete each hole in match play. If a player concedes a stroke – almost always a putt – to his opponent, the opponent picks up his ball, takes the score he would have made on the next stroke and moves on to the next hole.

HOW DOES A TEAM WIN THE RYDER CUP? Each match is worth one point, with matches ending in a draw worth 1/2 point to each side. The first team to reach 14 ½ points (of the 28 points available) wins the Ryder Cup. If the matches end in a 14-14 draw, the team holding the Ryder Cup retains it. The United States team is the defending champion headed into the 2018 Ryder Cup.

The three days of the matches consist of 28 total matches, each of which is worth one point. There are no extra holes in Ryder Cup matches. Should the two sides be tied after 18 holes, each side earns a halve (1/2 point). 

RYDER CUP HISTORY: The American team leads in victories, 26-13. You can see a year-by-year listing of Ryder Cup winners here.