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Presidents Cup 2015: Rules, Format and Points System Primer for Golf Tournament

Stuart Newman@@StuNewmanSportFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2015

Oct 6, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; Fred Couple, Jack Nicklaus and the USA Team  pose with the Presidents Cup trophy after winning the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 edition of the Presidents Cup gets underway Thursday, as the USA's elite take on a best-of-the-rest International team over four days of intense match play action.

USA have been the competition's dominant force since the inaugural tournament in 1994, winning eight times out of 10 and not tasting defeat since 1998, but they face a tough test this time around.

All roads now lead to Incheon, South Korea, as the Presidents Cup touches down on Asian soil for the first time in its history; that's not the only competition first, as the 2015 format will differ from any other year.

Every Presidents Cup Point Matters More

Oct 6, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; Richard Sterne lines up his putt on the 18th green during the fourth round of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time ever in the Presidents Cup, 15.5 points will be enough to claim victory.

That comes after the total points changed from 34 to 30 ahead of 2015's competition, thus making the first three days shorter and that bit more intense.

Since the 2003 Presidents Cup, there have been six fourball matches and six foursome matches on both Thursday and Friday, with five fourballs and five foursomes on the Saturday. That was rounded off by 12 single matches Sunday to make up a total of 34 points.

Oct 6, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods celebrate after winning the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

This time around, though, there'll be five of each type of match over the first two days and four of each Saturday. The 12 singles will remain as they are for Sunday.

So the 30 points total will make every clash a little more interesting, yet captains Nick Price and Jay Haas will have more freedom, too.

Oct 6, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; Phil Mickelson watches his shot on the 2nd hole during the fourth round of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Last time out, players needed to have made three appearances each before the singles, but that's now been reduced to two.

Plus, it's completely up to the host captain as to which order the fourballs and foursomes are played in over the first two days, and although Price is expected to opt for fourballs first of all, he could throw a curveball with foursomes.

Either way, points will be precious at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club.

Match Play Mathematics

Oct 5, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; A view of the leader board during the third round of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In matchplay golf, whichever player hits the fewest shots on a single hole is deemed the winner of said hole.

The match starts at "all square," and if—for example—one player cards a birdie against his opponent's par on the first hole, he goes 1-up.

If he continues to better his rival's score on every hole, he moves to 2-up, 3-up, 4-up and so on. If, at 4-up, he loses a hole, the score goes back to 3-up and continues to decrease if the pattern continues.

Oct 5, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; Adam Scott tees off on the 3rd hole during the third round of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If the players get the same score on a hole, the hole is halved, and the scoreline remains as it was back on the tee.

A match is won when one player is up more than there are holes remaining. For example, if Jason Day is 4-up over Dustin Johnson on the 15th hole, Day wins 4 and 3—4-up with three holes to play.

In the Presidents Cup, that win for Day would be worth one point to the International team's total.

Oct 5, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; Marc Leishman, Angel Cabrera, Brandon Grace, Richard Sterne and Charl Schwartzel on wait on the 16th green after the second round of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODA
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If the golfers can't be separated after 18 holes and remain all square, the match is halved, which gives each side half a point on the leaderboard.

The 2015 Presidents Cup will be won when one of the USA or the Internationals reaches 15.5 points.

That race to the winning total is set to be more frantic than ever this year, with the 10 points up for grabs on the opening day looking crucial.

Oct 5, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; USA fans on the 1st tee during the third round of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

USA have dominated Presidents Cups of the past, but with Price able to choose which order to play the competition in and train his team accordingly, the Internationals will be one step ahead before stepping out onto the tee.

The favourites may have a lot of talent at their disposal, but such is the beauty and drama of match play golf that nothing can be taken for granted. It’s all set to be a fiery encounter in Incheon.

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