Ryder Cup Renaissance?

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Make the bi-annual tussle even more memorable and pressure packed.
Posted on
September 27, 2023
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

There's an old adage that says if something isn't broken then there's no need to fix it. Since the 1983 joining of mainland Europe with Great Britain and Ireland the Ryder Cup matches have been nothing short of sensational golf theater.

Despite all the past success I have often wondered whether the matches could be improved in any meaningful way to add to the pageantry and pressure that are the hallmark of this fascinating bi-annal tussle.

Updating the formula for the matches has been done previously and providing a bit of tweaking would simply add to the engaging elements associated with the Ryder Cup matches.

Here are five ways to do just that.


  • Expand the matches from three to four days and increase the total points involved from 28 to 44.

The matches have been a three-day event for quite some time and there's no reason why an added day could not be included. Professional golf is generally a four-day situation -- not counting the recent LIV invention of 54-hole events.

Keepig things as they are would likely be something the Europeans would want. That belief centered around the thought that expanding the format only benefits the deeper USA side.

That logic doesn't really hold because unless the total number of players is expanded beyond the current 12 the sides are often nearly even in terms of base talent.

Adding another day's play would ramp up the overall excitement and bring even more exposure for the matches.

(David Davies/PA)
  • Start the matches off with 12 singles matches.

The current format calls for two-man teams to play in a four-ball and foursomes format for the first two days and then concluding with singles matches.

There's no reason why the format cannot be balanced with another singles format scheduled and leading off the event on the first day. Head-to-head match play is an exciting situation and would jumpstart the event in a big-time manner.

More importantly, it would prevent captains from "hiding" weaker players as is currently done now. With a singles session scheduled for the start of the matches the pressure would be on all players to contribute something to their side.

Having singles start the event would be the perfect jumpstart to the majesty of what the matches are about.

41st Ryder Cup - Hazeltine National Golf Club. (David Davies/PA)
  • Increase the number of partner matches from the present four to five for each session.

The existing format only calls for four team matches for each of the four-ball and foursomes sessions. This keeps four players out of the action and is unnecessary. The team formats should include five matches being played.

This would still allow the respective captains to sit out just two of their 12 players.

42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National (Adam Davy/PA)
  • Have the captains publicly present their choices instead of the current sealed envelope process.

To truly add a degree of excitement the captains should present their choices for each of the matches publicly and face-to-face.

Think of the captains sitting across from one another and having that situation televised live. To balance matters out the home team would present its first choices and the visiting captain would then counter. The order would then be reversed until all the slots are completed. The captains could decide whatever slots need to be filled and need not be in match order.

I know past practice has been to do things the way they have always been but the opportunity for a bit of a public "chess match" would be compelling to watch and likely add to the debate among fans on the strategies employed by the respective captains.

Ryder Cup Renaissance?
Europe Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald (left) with USA captain Zach Johnson (right) (Adam Davy/PA Wire)
  • If the matches are tied -- have the captain of each squad, select one player from their respective team to finalize matters via a three-hole match.

The current formula for possession of the Ryder Cup is that the team that won the preceding match need only get to 14 points to retain possession. The team that lost the preceding match must secure 14 ½ points to regain it.

Frankly, why not follow what the Presidents Cup did in 2003 when the USA and the International team were tied and then settled matters in selecting one player from each team to battle one another in a three-hole match.

The Presidents Cup followed this formula in 2003 when Tiger Woods and Ernie El were selected by their respective captains, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and battled through the three holes tied. Both Woods and Els needed to sink key putts at the final hole in order to remain tied. The tension was amazing -- the quality of the golf superb.

Ultimately, daylight ran out in that event and it was decided that the matches would remain tied.

The format used in 2003 should be used for the Ryder Cup. It would provide the quintessential icing on the cake in determining which team takes possession of golf's ultimate team trophy.


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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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