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Cragun's 2016

Local Golf
July 22, 2017

RYDER CUP 101 - Learning The Terms, Understanding The Format!
George Duncan, right, receives the 1929 Ryder Cup from trophy donor Samuel Ryder after his side's 7 to 5 win. Photograph By Haynes Archive, Popperfoto
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George Duncan, right, receives the 1929 Ryder Cup from trophy donor Samuel Ryder after his side's 7 to 5 win. Photograph By Haynes Archive, Popperfoto
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed partners at Gleneagles in 2014
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Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed partners at Gleneagles in 2014
RJ Smiley


In an effort to educate our readers about the variety of terms, or jargon, used during The Ryder Cup Matches, Tee Times enlisted the help of Mike Barge, teaching professional at Hazeltine National Golf Club, for the past 30 years. Mike, who has felt the heartbeat of the Ryder Cup for fourteen years, will add his insight to the format and share his opinions.

Samuel Ryder was the founder of the Ryder Cup Matches, first played in 1927. The trophy, a Cup, which the wealthy British seed merchant presented to the winning team, is still used today. The "Ryder" Cup is named in his honor.

12 Golfers, A Team Captain and several Vice-Captions make up each team. Eight golfers will earn automatic spots on Team USA based on season long point totals through August 28th. The remaining four players, Captain's Picks, will be chosen by Team Captain, Davis Love, III. Nine golfers earn automatic spots on Team Europe based on points through August 28th. Team Europe Captain, Darren Clark will make three Captain's Picks.

14½ Points is the magic number. The first Team to win 14½ Points (a simple majority) of the 28 possible points is the winner of the Ryder Cup. If the Teams tie 14-14, the winner of the previous Ryder Cup Match retains the Cup for two more years.

Match Play is a hole-by-hole competition. The Ryder Cup is a series of 28 Matches or "Games" (in Ryder Cup jargon) played under the rules of Match Play. The 28 Games are played over three days. During the first two days there are two sessions per day with four Games played during each session. Captains choose the eight players and two man teams who will compete in each session. Each day's competition is made up of one Foursomes (Alternate Shot) session and one Fourball (Better Ball). On the final day all 12 players on each team compete in Singles Matches. The winner of each Game is awarded 1 point.

Mike's comments, "In Match Play you are playing a man or a team, not the golf course for a score. The opponent's shot determines your strategy for the hole. In Match Play teams or individuals must make shot decisions after their opponent hits his shot. In Match Play the winning team may in fact take more strokes during the round than the losing team."

Scoring is a snapshot of where the Match stands. Teams start every match All Square (AS). Meaning neither team has won a hole. If each Team has the same number of strokes on the first hole, the hole is Halved or tied. The score at the end of the first hole would be, "All Square after one." The teams remain All Square until team "A" wins the 5th hole: "Team "A" 1-up through 5." If team "B" wins the 6th hole: "All Square through 6 holes." If team "A", 2-up through 14, wins the 15th hole to go 3-up, team "A" has taken his Match Dormie, meaning that team "A" can not lose the match. Team "A" is 3-up with 3 holes to play. If team "B" were to rally and win the final three holes, the Match would be Halved ending All Square. Each team would earn half a point. On the other hand, if the teams would Halve the 16th hole, Team "A" would win the Match 3&2 - three holes ahead with only two holes remaining. (The last two holes would not be played.) Golf fans seeing the final score would know that the match went 16 holes with team "A" winning three more holes than team "B".

Mike's comment, "In Match play there is a sense of urgency! You never know how many holes you are going to play."

The Team Captain's job description is very broad and difficult to define. Some duties, like making Captain's Picks, are difficult. Friendships, momentum, special abilities, and (most of all) "gut feel" are areas that keep Team Captains up at night. Course set-up is also the responsibility of the Captain of the home team.

Mike's comment, "With the USA Team being loaded with guys like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson who hit it a mile, but not always straight, Davis has made the decision to keep the rough shorter. This should be an advantage to the long hitters."

Pairings meaning choosing the two golfers who make up each twosome for Foursomes and Fourball matches is a major responsibility of the Team Captain. Before each session, the Team Captain submits his rosters for the Games. The two rosters are matched for Game One; pairing the players chosen by the Captains. Until the Pairings are announced, no on knows who will compete with or against who. More drama!

Fourball is a Game where two members of each play their own ball. The term Fourball means that all four balls in the group are in play. The best ball or score by team "A" is used against the best ball from team "B".

Mike's comment, "Captains attempt to pair personalities in Fourball."

Foursomes is an alternate shot format. There are only two balls in play in the group. One player drives from the tee. His partner hits the second shot and they alternate shots until their ball is holed. One team member will tee off on odd numbered holes the other on even numbered holes.

Mike's comment, "Pairings are important in Foursomes. Who plays the tee shots on odd and even holes can sometimes give advantages. I would want Zack Johnson hitting the wedge shot on shorter par-4 holes. And, the brand of golf ball is important in Foursomes. The players today are so good that they know exactly how "their ball" will react. In Foursomes I might give a slight advantage to Team Europe. They have a little more experience. When we played Muirfield a few years ago, we discovered that they play almost exclusively Foursomes. With only two balls in play, rounds take only about 2½ hours."

Mike Barge went on to comment about The Ryder Cup in general:
"The team with the "World's 12 Best Putters" for those three days will win the Ryder Cup. All 24 players are great players, but the team with the hottest putters will win."

"Some comments have been made that the Team USA is too young to win the Cup. To me, that is crazy. If the golfers are good enough to win the majors, they can win Ryder Cup Matches."

"Match Play is a tough transition for golfers from both sides of the Atlantic. In the past Europe played a little more Match Play, but not today. Winning tournaments in USA or Europe is about the fewest number of strokes for 72 holes; not beating a man on one hole."

"Captains are held responsible for wins or losses even though they never hit a shot during the Matches."

"During The Ryder Cup Matches there will be a change in routing making the 16th hole, Hazeltine's signature hole with the Payne Stewart Bridge, the 7th hole played during the Matches. This change will insure that golf fans around the world experience the drama of the treacherous hole. Many Ryder Cup Matches end with several holes to play."

Books have been written about The Ryder Cup, Tee Times hopes that this brief explanation will help you understand the dynamics and strategy as well as enjoy the Matches even more.






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