whistling straits golf course

The Ryder Cup 2021: Everything you need to know

What is the Ryder Cup? How does the scoring format work? Who are the favourites? SWL answers these questions and more as Europe seek to retain the trophy.

What is the Ryder Cup?

The Ryder Cup is a biennial golf competition contested between teams of 12 male players from Europe and the USA.

Held over three days, this year’s tournament was originally slated for September 2020, but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

It will instead take place this weekend, between Friday 24th and Sunday 26th September 2021.

Where is it this year?

The 43rd edition of the contest will be hosted by the United States at Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Whether the rolling, sandy hills of Whistling Straits will suit an American side that typically favours short rough, wide fairways and fast greens remains to be seen.

How does the scoring format work?

The Ryder Cup consists of three different match play formats: fourball, foursomes and singles.

Each of the first two days combines one four-match session of fourball and one four-match session of foursomes.

A 12-match session of singles takes place on the final day.

In fourball, each member of a two-man team plays his own ball, meaning four balls are in play on every hole.

Each team picks the lowest of its two scores on each hole and the team whose player has the lowest score wins the hole, and if both teams’ low scores are tied the hole is halved.

In foursomes, each two-man team plays one ball per hole with the players taking alternate shots until each hole is complete.

Players take turns hitting tee shots: one player will tee off on odd-numbered holes and the other hits first on even-numbered holes.

The team with the low score on each hole wins that hole and again, if their scores are tied, the holes are halved.

In singles, each match involves one player from each team.

The player with the lower score on each hole wins that hole and if their scores are tied, the holes are halved.

Each of the 18-hole match is worth one point, for a total of 28 points, with both teams are awarded ½ point where matches end in a tie.

The first team to reach 14 ½ points wins the Ryder Cup.

If the matches end in a 14-14 tie, the winning team from the previous Ryder Cup retains the trophy.

Who is involved?

The 12-man squads are determined through a combination of rankings and wildcards selected by the non-playing captains.

There is one non-playing captain and five vice-captains, all teeming with Ryder Cup experience, who will also assist each team.

Team USA consists of the top six players in the World Points List.

Open champion Colin Morikawa, as well as 2020 major winners Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, are among those who made the cut.

The remaining half of the roster were all wildcard picks by captain Steve Stricker.

These include Xander Schauffele, the Olympic champion, and former world number one, Jordan Spieth.

Patrick Reed, USA’s pantomime villain in recent Ryder Cups, is a notable omission, as is Tiger Woods.

Europe had a slightly different qualification process, with the top four golfers in the European Points List, followed by the top five remaining eligible players in the world rankings, earning an automatic spot.

Seasoned competitors such as Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are accompanied by fresher faces like Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland.

Rounding out the visiting team are captain Padraig Harrington’s three wildcard picks.

The Irishman has opted for Ryder Cup veterans Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter, as well as debutant Shane Lowry.

Team USA

Captain: Steve Stricker

Vice-captains: Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson

Players: Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas

Team Europe

Captain: Padraig Harrington

Vice-captains: Luke Donald, Robert Karlsson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson

Players: Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm, Lee Westwood, Bernd Wiesberger

Who are the favourites?

USA to win outright 8/15

Europe to win outright 2/1 (to retain 11/8) *odds from SkyBet.

Despite Europe’s commanding victory at Le Golf National in 2018, the bookies view America as the overwhelming favourites to win back the Ryder Cup this weekend.

For starters, the much-loved tournament is back in the States.

Home advantage has served the US well in the past: their only two wins in the last 20 years have both come on home soil, and this will only be boosted by the lack of European fans able to be in attendance due to the pandemic.

Then there’s the players.

Stricker’s side is as equally talented as they are youthful, with six of the team making their Ryder Cup debut this weekend and will no doubt lean on the US-heavy crowds at Whistling Straits.

For Europe, it is largely the opposite.

Whilst World No.1 Rahm is the only player in the top ten, Harrington’s picks have huge amounts of experience in their ageing ranks, with Westwood competing in his 11th and Garcia his 10th outing against the US.

That experience will be key if Europe are to upset one of the most talented American teams in recent memory.

Where can you watch it in the UK?

Coverage will start at 11am BST on Friday and Saturday, then 2pm BST on Sunday.

All three days of the competition will be shown live on Sky Sports Golf and some of the action will be available on Sky Sports Main Event.

For those unable to watch in the comfort of their own homes, the tournament will be available to be streamed via the Sky Go app.

A NowTV pass costs £9.98 for a day or £33.99 for a month which will also give you access to every day of the Ryder Cup.

BBC Two will also be showing two hours of highlights after each day, starting at 12:05am on Saturday (from Day One) and Monday (Day Three), with highlights being shown at 12-2pm on Sunday (Day Two).

For those without access to Sky Sports, the tournament will also be shown live on the Ryder Cup app and on

Tee Times (all times BST)

Friday 24 September:

  • Foursome tee times: 1.05pm, 1.21pm, 1.37pm, 1.53pm
  • Fourball tee times: 6.10pm, 6.26pm, 6.42pm, 6.58pm

(Play concludes at approximately 12.30am)

Saturday 25 September:

  • Foursome tee times: 1.05pm, 1.21pm, 1.37pm, 1.53pm
  • Fourball tee times: 6.10pm, 6.26pm, 6.42pm, 6.58pm

(Play concludes at approximately 12.30am)

Sunday 26 September:

  • Singles tee times: 5.04pm to 7.05pm at 11-minute intervals

(Play concludes at approximately 10.55pm)

The Ryder Cup takes place between Team USA and Team Europe on 24-26 September and you can check out all of SWL’s coverage here.

Featured image credit: Dan Perry via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license

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