The Ryder Cup features formats the casual golf fan might not be familiar with. One of those: four-ball, also known as best ball.

By Daniel Rapaport
September 14, 2018

The Ryder Cup is golf's preeminent team event, and it features match-play formats that non-avid golf fans might be unfamiliar with.

The two teams—one consisting of 12 Americans, the other of 12 Europeans—will compete over three days (Sept. 28-30) at Le Golf National outside Paris. There will be two team sessions featuring four matches on both Friday and Saturday: one foursomes and one four-ball session each day, the order of which will be determined by European captain Thomas Bjorn. On Sunday, all 12 players for each team will play in a singles match-play match. 

Each match will have one point at stake, meaning there are a total of 28 points up for grabs over the course of the competition. The American team needs to win 14 points to keep the Cup, having won it back in 2016 at Hazeltine, while the Europeans need 14.5 points to retake it. 

Here's how four-ball, also known as best ball, works. 

• There will be four matches in both four-ball sessions—one on Friday, one on Saturday—with Bjorn and American captain Jim Furyk each choosing four two-man teams to face off against each other. That means four players for each team will sit out.

• In fourball, both team members play their own ball on each hole. Each team will use the lowest of its two scores for each hole. For example, if American Player A makes a 3 and American Player B makes a 4 on the same hole, the team's official score is a 3.

• Whichever team has the lowest score on a specific hole will win the hole. If the two teams tie the hole—say American Player A and European Player B both make a 4—the hole is tied, known in golfspeak as "halved."

• Unlike in stroke play, the players don't have to complete every hole—either player for either team can pick up his ball once he concedes the hole. That means his cannot count for his team's official score on that hole. For example: if on a par 3, American Player B hits his ball into a water hazard then American Player A hits his tee shot to within a foot of the hole, American Player B is not required to finish the hole. 

• The two-man team that wins more holes will win a full point for their team. If the teams win equal amount of holes, the match is halved and each team receives .5 points.

• If a team has already clinched a victory before the 18th hole, the two teams do not play the rest of the round. For example: if a team is 4-up (having won four more holes than the opponent) after the 15th hole, the match is over and the official scores is 4 and 3 (up four holes with three remaining). 


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