2021 Ryder Cup Format: How USA vs. Europe Could Learn from Presidents Cup

2021 Ryder Cup Format: How USA vs. Europe Could Learn from Presidents Cup article feature image

Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR. Pictured: 2016 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III.

  • The Ryder Cup is one of the most exciting weeks in golf, but the format leaves much to be desired.
  • The Presidents Cup, which pits the U.S. against the rest of the world, outside of Europe, is closer to getting it right.
  • Jason Sobel lays out how he thinks the Ryder Cup format could improve below.

This column was originally published ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup.

When it comes to international competitions, the Ryder Cup will always play big brother to the Presidents Cup.

The competition between the United States and Europe owns more history, induces more pressure and holds more importance than the other biennial competition between the Americans and every non-European country in the world..

You’d be hard-pressed to find any spectators who become more engrossed in the regularly lopsided Presidents Cup than the traditionally dramatic Ryder Cup.

That doesn’t mean little brother isn’t better on a few significant details, though.

That’s right — the powers that be who govern the Ryder Cup (namely, the PGA of America and European Tour) should take a cue from little bro on three things to make it a more compelling competition.

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Create the Best Matchups

In 2016 at Hazeltine, we collectively got lucky.

Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy battled each other in an epic Sunday afternoon clash, while Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia did likewise. The captains couldn’t have scripted it any better.

But here’s the thing: Those matches weren’t scripted.

That’s because the Ryder Cup employs a blind draw to set the matches throughout all five sessions.

It’s exactly as it sounds. Each captain will list his players in order — one through four for team sessions, one through 12 for the singles session — and let the matchups fall where they may.

The Presidents Cup, on the other hand, allows the captains to create the matchups they want — or want to avoid. Like a fantasy football draft, the captains go back and forth naming players until they’ve created compelling matches.

If you’d really like to see, say, Tiger Woods against McIlroy at a Ryder Cup, there’s only a 0.69% chance (1-in-144) it will happen, even if both players were on board with the idea.

If the Ryder Cup adopted the Presidents Cup format, though, the captains could assure them — and us — that it would happen.

Four-Day Competition

Honestly, I can’t believe this hasn’t happened already.

The Ryder Cup might be about pride and honor and patriotism, but it’s also about money. Loads and loads of money.

If the event were stretched out to begin Thursday instead of Friday, it would result in 33% more ticket sales and TV revenue.

And it’s not like this would be unproven ground. Every other major golf tournament played during the year is a four-day festivity.

The current three-day format actually makes the Ryder Cup more of an outlier than anything else.

This would be a win-win all around. It gives the organizing bodies an extra day of revenue, it gives the players an extra day of just 18 holes rather than a possible 36, and it gives the fans an extra day of lounging on the couch licking Cheetos dust off their fingers.

But neither of those reasons is the best reason. No, the best reason for expansion is that it could give us this…

More Players Playing Golf

Consider this prospect: You’ve spent the past two years grinding to make the Ryder Cup team, you get in all your preparation, you wake up on the first morning of competition raring to go — and you’re told to be nothing but a cheerleader for the first five hours.

This is a very real scenario that will indeed happen this week.

With only four pairings from each team playing in the first four sessions, that means one-third of the field — four players per team — will be holding the pompoms during each session.

At the Presidents Cup, since there’s only one session during each of the first two days, the matches are expanded to include 10 players for each team. I’d argue that expanding the Ryder Cup could — and should — open things up for every player on the roster to compete in both sessions Thursday and Friday.

There was an old notion that the weaker side could better “hide” less talented players in the limited team sessions, but that idea is long outdated.

Everyone who makes the team should play. The more matches, the better — and expanding to a fourth day would ensure this could happen.

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