2021 Ryder Cup format: Scoring, rules, pairings, teams, captain’s picks, TV schedule, coverage dates

The 43rd Ryder Cup is here, and this is perhaps the most-anticipated such event of all time given we all had to wait an extra year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then consider that Europe has won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, all the angst on the United States’ side and a changing of the guard with youth supplanting the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for the Americans while the Europeans side with their aging heroes. Those ingredients have created one of the most interesting Ryder Cups ever.

A hot start is important. Since the 2002 Ryder Cup, the team that has won the first day has gone on to win seven times in nine tries. That has held at each of the last three as well, most famously in 2018 in Paris when the U.S. won the first three matches on Friday morning and Europe won the next eight and went on to easily retain the Cup.

That will be a storyline, but there will be loads more (some will develop that we haven’t even considered yet). With Whistling Straits expected to get crisp, wonderful fall weather right on Lake Michigan all weekend, the next week of golf as a celebratory end to what has been a wild and difficult last 18 months should be wonderful no matter who wins the event. Here’s a look at what to expect, how to watch and a refresher on just how unique this biennial team event is in the world of golf. 

2021 Ryder Cup format, scoring, rules

The first two days of Ryder Cup action (Friday, Saturday) will include split sessions with separate types of golf being played. Golfers from the United States and Europe will compete in both four-ball action early in the day and foursomes later in the day. On Sunday, the golfers will complete in one-on-one singles matches. Below we break down each type of match you will see this week.

Four-ball: Two-man teams representing each country square off against each other. Each of the four golfers plays their own ball, and the pairs choose their best score to count for the hole. The two scores not chosen get thrown out.

Foursomes: Two-man teams representing each country square off against each other. However, the golfers must switch off hitting the same ball until it rolls in the cup. The rotation can start fresh the next hole at the discretion of each pair. There is more strategy involved here, and the U.S. has struggled in this format over recent years.

Scoring (four-ball and foursomes): The winner of each hole receives a single point for their round; if the score is even (such as both teams make birdie), no point is awarded. Points are never lost. At the end of each match, the winning team gets one point for their country (or 0.5 if the result is even). A match can end early if the winning team is up more points than there are holes left to play.

Singles: Sunday consists of 12 one-on-one matches played over the course of the day. The winner of each match receives one point (or 0.5 if the result is even).

Teams: Check out the Ryder Cup teams representing the United States and Europe, along with how they stack up against one another.

Rick Gehman is joined by Kyle Porter, Greg DuCharme and Mark Immelman to preview the 2021 Ryder Cup. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

2021 Ryder Cup TV schedule of events

All times Eastern

Day 1 — Friday, Sept. 24

Session 1 (fourballs): 8 a.m. — Pairings
Session 2 (foursomes): 1:45 p.m.

Live TV coverage: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Golf Channel
Live stream online: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on fuboTV (Try for free) and RyderCup.com

Day 2 — Saturday, Sept. 25

Session 1 (fourballs) starts: 8 a.m.
Session 2 (foursomes) starts: 1:45 p.m.

Early TV coverage: 8-9 a.m. on Golf Channel

Live TV coverage: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on NBC
Live stream online: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on fuboTV (Try for free) and RyderCup.com

Day 3 — Sunday, Sept. 26

Singles: 12 p.m.

Live TV coverage: 12-6 p.m. on NBC
Live stream online: 6 a.m. – 1 p.m. on fuboTV (Try for free) and RyderCup.com

Trophy presentation / closing ceremony: Live on RyderCup.com

2021 Ryder Cup gear now available

The Ryder Cup starts Sept. 24, and team-issued gear is now available. Get jackets, polos, hats, hoodies, and much more to support your team. Shop here.

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