It’s the event that turns the typically individual sport of golf into a thrilling team competition of the highest level.
It’s a biennial battle over three days between the 12 best players in the United States and the finest 12 players Europe has to offer.
If you haven’t guessed it yet it is the The Ryder Cup and the 40th edition this year takes place at the legendary PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles, Scotland.
Match play manual
Unlike most other tournaments on the American and European Tour the Ryder Cup is a match play event.
Match play is a scoring system in which a player, or team, earns one point for each hole they win.
Every match is played over a maximum of 18 holes.
But many battles won’t reach the 18th as teams can easily attain an unassailable lead where their opponents don’t have enough holes left to win points and catch up.
The Ryder Cup uses three formats of match play; Fourballs, Foursomes and Singles.
But what are fourballs, Foursomes and Singles?
A fourballs match consists of two teams of two players competing against each other.
Each golfer plays their own ball throughout the round and the lowest scoring golfer wins the hole for him and his playing partner.
If a player on each team records the same low score the hole is halved.
Foursomes – or – alternate shot play – involves two teams of two players using one ball per pair.
One player tees off on the odd-numbered holes, while their teammate starts the even-numbered ones.
The players of each team alternate hitting the same ball until the hole is completed.
The lowest scoring pair wins the hole.
Over the three days at the end of each match, the individual or two-man team with the most points wins one point for the entire team, if it’s a tie the match is halved and the spoils are shared.
Day one and two of this edition features four fourball matches in the morning, followed by four foursome matches in the afternoon, meaning some golfers might not play until the final day’s singles.
The singles contest on the Sunday usually goes a long way in determining the outcome of the Cup.
Each of the 12 singles matches pits one American against one European player.
All 24 golfers will feature on the final day.
In total there will be 28 points up for grabs over the three days – as defending champions Europe need only 14 to retain the title while the USA need 14 1/2 points to reign supreme.
The Ryder Cup team sheet reads like a who’s who of the golfing elite.
Let’s go through some of the principle actors of this 40th edition.
World number one Rory McIlroy will spearhead Europe’s attack following a stunning season including two major triumphs.
Ian Poulter always raises his game for the Ryder cup and with an 80 percent win rate he will no doubt prove crucial once again as he did at Medinah two years ago.
As well as Ryder Cup Stalwarts Lee Westwood and on-form Sergio Garcia, Europe have three rookies on the team in Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson of Wales and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, who have all had breakthrough seasons.
Europe are captained by Paul McGinley who is the first Irishman to be at the helm of a Ryder Cup team and is a three time winner as a player.
USA, USA, USA
Team USA is headed by the wonderfully unpredictable Bubba Watson who won his second career Masters title in April.
Phil Mickleson will be making his tenth appearance and is another of the team’s big draws in the absence of Tiger Woods while Jim Furyk will also be bringing vast experience to Gleneagles.
Like Europe, the USA have three rookies in world number 19 and late bloomer Jimmy Walker, Jordan Speith – possibly the most exciting young talent in the game – and rising star Patrick Reed.
Team USA is captained by the legendary Tom Watson. It is the 65-year-old’s second stint as skipper after guiding the team to victory at the Belfry in 1993.
The USA lead on 25 overall victories but Europe have won seven of the previous nine editions and are the two-time-defending champions.
However the last time the USA won on European soil Tom Watson was the team’s captain.
At 65 he is the oldest skipper in the tournament’s history and he’s never been on a losing team – not in four Cups as a player either.
Are the stars and stripes aligned for a USA victory?
The current form of the players suggests Europe – come Sunday evening – should be celebrating a third consecutive title, but as many previous editions have taught us – nothing should be taken for granted in golf’s thrilling biennial team battle that is the Ryder Cup.