The 2021 edition of the Ryder Cup begins on Friday a whole year after its initially scheduled start date due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And Europe will be hoping to retain the trophy they won on home soil in 2018, with a 17½ points to 10½ victory.
If you’ve ever wondered what golf’s greatest event is all about, here’s an easy guide for you.
When is it played?
Friday kicks off with the first foursomes and fourballs, ahead of Saturday’s second round of the same matchplay disciplines. They will be followed by Sunday’s 12 singles contests as every selected player takes on an opponent in head-to-head matchplay golf.
How is it won?
Each match is worth a point, with a half-point each being awarded for tied games. With 28 matches in total, 14½ points are needed for Team USA to win the Ryder Cup, while Europe - as defending champions - will only need 14 points to win, as a draw favours the team who won it most recently.
How is it played?
If you’ve ever struggled to work out the differences between the two pairs-based matchplay games, you’re not alone. Foursomes consists of two players on each team sharing a ball, with teammates alternating shots. The lowest score per hole wins the hole. Fourball is what it says on the tin, as four golfers use four balls and the best result between the two teammates is counted against the best result of the opponent, with the lowest score winning the hole.
Who normally wins?
So far this century, Europe has dominated the Ryder Cup, winning seven of the 10 Ryder Cups on offer, with wildcard pick Sergio Garcia taking part in every European outfit since 1999. Team Europe’s captain is three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, who played in six editions of the event between 1999 and 2010.
Who plays for Europe?
Harrington’s selections consist of three ‘wildcards’, who are Ryder Cup veterans Garcia and Ian Poulter, as well as his countryman and debutant, Shane Lowry, who missed out on automatic qualification by the barest of margins last week.
The nine automatic picks for Europe consist of the top four of the European Tour’s ‘Race to Dubai’ list, and the other five from the world golf rankings. US Open champion Jon Rahm topped both lists, followed by Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrell Hatton and Bernd Wiesberger on the ‘Race to Dubai’ list. Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood made it through the world golf rankings.
Who plays for USA?
Team USA is a bit simpler, with captain Steve Stricker having six automatically qualifying golfers through the PGA Tour’s rankings, allowing him to pick the other six golfers himself. The automatic six are The Open winner Colin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and recent FedEx Cup champion, Patrick Cantlay. The six picks from Stricker feature Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler.
Stricker excluded Patrick Reed, known by the Team USA faithful as ‘Captain America’ for his heroic performances in the Ryder Cup back in 2016, although this is more likely a result of Reed suffering from pneumonia in early August, meaning he was unable to prepare for the event in the recent FedEx Cup tournaments.
Where is it played?
Whistling Straits, Wisconsin is this year’s home of the biennial Ryder Cup, but the choice of course could play into the hands of Team Europe rather than USA, as it’s a links course based on those found in Scotland and the North West coast of England, even having Scottish Blackface sheep surrounding the course, although we’re not quite sure how they got there.
It’s a wide open course, featuring huge greens, deep bunkers and grass-topped dunes, something that PGA players won’t have faced too often in the tour, whereas European players probably became of age on such courses in Q-School and the European Tour.
Expect to see plenty of impressive putts from both sides to create some tasty ties throughout the weekend.
Who are favourites?
The USA are 8/15 favourites with Betfred, with Europe 11/4 and the tie 11/1. Europe are 6/4 to get at least the 14-14 tie they would need to lift the trophy.