The 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club is approaching as Team USA looks to retain the cup with a victory on enemy territory. The United States have not won on European soil in three decades, and the emergence of European superstars in recent months will make the task of snapping this streak all the more difficult.
The team competition is not your ordinary stroke-play event seen on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour on a weekly basis. Instead, competitors will team up with another member of their respective sides the first two days and play through a format of either foursomes or fourball.
There will be two sessions each day, a morning and an afternoon, before setting the scene for 12 head-to-head matchups on the final day of competition. Let’s dive into both formats, the rules and which side has historically had the better end of the stick in each.
Play will begin Friday with foursomes, commonly referred to as alternate shot, which is different for Ryder Cups held in Europe.
The home team is allowed to select the cadence of the formats the first two days, and recent Ryder Cups in Europe have started with fourball. That will not be the case this time around as players will alternate hitting the ball between themselves and their teammate.
For example, if Max Homa and Collin Morikawa are paired together for the United States, Homa will strike the tee shot, Morikawa will then hit the second and Homa will strike the first putt. This cadence will continue until the ball is holed. Morikawa will then began with the tee shot on No. 2 even if he is the last to hole out on the prior hole.
The U.S. team has only won two foursomes sessions in Europe in its last seven Ryder Cups with those coming in 2002 and 2010.
Fourball is the more exciting format of the two as fireworks are likely in this one.
Rather than playing a bit conservative and hoping to avoid mistakes, players will pull driver more times than not, fire at pins, and race putts by the hole in order to give themselves the best chance at birdie. With a partner to lean on if they hit the ball awry, players will go for broke.
Unlike foursomes, fourball is a format where players play their own ball throughout the entirety of the match.
Let’s say for example, Rory McIlroy and Ludvig Aberg are paired together for the European team. McIlroy makes birdie on the opening hole while Aberg experiences some rookie nerves and cards a bogey. They are playing the U.S. pair of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay who both sign for a par. The Europeans would win the hole as McIlroy’s would count towards the team and they would head to No. 2 1 UP in the match.
Europe has historically had the upper hand not only in foursomes but also fourball winning 43% of the sessions compared to the United States’ 35%. However, the tide has begun to turn in recent Ryder Cups as the U.S. has won eight fourball sessions to Europe’s three since 2008.
Despite, losing the 2018 Ryder Cup in convincing fashion, the United States actually got off to a great start by winning the opening fourball session 3 to 1. Unfortunately, they would get swept in the afternoon foursomes and the rest is history.
So, you are probably wondering if the United States doesn’t perform well in either foursomes or fourball, then how do they compete? The answer is Sunday singles. The U.S. has often dominated the final day of the Ryder Cup, and the format is exactly how it sounds.
Captains will order their players one through 12 and reveal a blind draw of matches that will take place the final day.
Last year saw Rory McIlroy take on Xander Schauffele in the opening match with other strong matches such as Jon Rahm against Scottie Scheffler.
Some players have a comfortable spot in the lineup as the winning point is often somewhere between the sixth to 10th match depending on the score heading into the day. Collin Morikawa claimed the deciding point against Viktor Hovland in 2021 while Francesco Molinari did the same against Phil Mickelson in 2018.
The U.S. has won 13 of the last 21 single sessions. Since 1979, only four of the 21 Ryder Cups have seen a team use Sunday singles to flip the cup in their favor with the last instance coming in 2012 with the Miracle at Medinah when the Europeans entered the session down 10 to 6 before winning.