Ryder Cup 2021: Rules, Format and Points System Primer for Golf Tournament

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2021

FILE- In this Aug. 29, 2021, file photo, Bryson DeChambeau reacts after sinking his putt on the 16th green during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. When DeChambeau arrives at Whistling Straits for the Ryder Cup the 6-foot-1, 235-pound disrupter with a world-leading driving average of 323.7 yards, will bring with him an epic amount of baggage. He is in the middle of a months-long feud with one of his teammates, Brooks Koepka, who happens to have three more major titles than DeChambeau.  (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

The Ryder Cup returns after a three-year absence on Friday. 

The clash between the best men's golfers from the United States and Europe has been dominated by the Europeans lately. 

Europe won the last Ryder Cup in 2018 in France, and it has been victorious in four of the last five events dating back to 2010. 

The last three Ryder Cups have been decided by wide margins. Europe won the 2018 edition by seven full points. The United States captured its 2016 crown through a six-point victory, and Europe took the title in 2014 with a five-point victory. 

There will be 28 matches played at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin starting on Friday, with four matches in the foursome and four-ball formats on Friday and Saturday and then 12 singles matches on Sunday.


Ryder Cup Rosters

United States

Collin Morikawa

Dustin Johnson

Bryson DeChambeau

Brooks Koepka

Justin Thomas

Patrick Cantlay

Tony Finau

Xander Schauffele

Jordan Spieth

Harris English 

Daniel Berger

Scottie Scheffler



Jon Rahm

Tommy Fleetwood

Tyrrell Hatton

Bernd Wiesberger

Rory McIlroy

Viktor Hovland

Paul Casey

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Lee Westwood

Shane Lowry

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter



Each of the 28 matches carries one point with it. 

For the United States to win the Ryder Cup, it needs to earn 14½ points over the three days. Europe needs 14 points to retain the Ryder Cup for another two years. 

In the event of a 14-14 tie, the reigning champion holds on to the Ryder Cup, which is why Europe needs a half-point less than the Americans to keep the trophy.

Friday and Saturday will feature foursome and four-ball matches. There will four matches of each type on both days. Both formats require two team members per match. 

In foursome competition, players on the same team alternate shots. For example, if Bryson DeChambeau hit a tee shot, Collin Morikawa would have to hit the second shot from wherever the drive lands. 

Teammates also alternate which player uses the driver off the tee. The players will designate who will tee off on odd and even holes. 

The four-ball matches will have every member of the foursome play their own ball. The European and American teams will count the lowest score of their players on each hole. 

There will be four players who sit out each of the sessions on Thursday and Friday. Those decisions will come down to the captains. Steve Stricker is in charge of the United States team, while Padraig Harrington is Team Europe's captain.

On Sunday, each of the 12 players on both rosters will go head-to-head in singles matches. Europe won seven of the individual showdowns in 2018 to bring the Ryder Cup back to their shores. Points can be halved if any matches end in a tie. 

The Americans need 14½ points to win, but they have achieved that total just twice in the last 20 years. Europe is 7-2 in that span, with two of those victories coming in the United States.