Ryder Cup 101: Explaining the rules of the biennial matches

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The 40th Ryder Cup gets underway on Friday morning at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland. It's not your typical golf tournament, meaning the casual observer -- or even a knowledgeable golf fan -- may not be familiar with the rules. We're here to offer you a quick refresher in Ryder Cup 101.

  • The matches unfold over three days, Friday-Sunday, unlike your typical 72-hole golf tournament over four days.
  • There are five different sessions in total, with two on Friday and Saturday and one on Sunday.
  • On Friday, there is one session of four, Fourball (best ball) matches and another four-pack of Foursomes (alternate shot) matches
  • On Saturday, it's the same docket, but in opposite order
  • On Sunday, there are 12 singles match, pitting each player against an opposing rival to the finish
  • During the Friday and Saturday sessions, captains Tom Watson and Paul McGinley don't have to put all of their 12 players into a match. This isn't Little League.
  • The matches are decided in match play, meaning the team with the lower score on each hole wins that hole. Win the most holes and you win the match. If the match ends in a draw, both teams earn a half-point for the effort.
  • There are 28 matches, each worth a point. The first team to score 14.5 points wins the overall match. If there is a 14-14 tie at the end of the three days, defending champion Europe retains the Ryder Cup.

So there's the Ryder Cup in a nutshell. Now you're ready to get up early and watch a whole lot of emotional golf.

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