QThe Ryder Cup starts this week. I know it's a match play competition, but what are the specific forms of play? - Gordon (Columbia)
AGordon, I'll explain the formats for you and a little bit about the scoring system too.
First, let's understand what match play is. A match consists of one side playing against another over a stipulated round. In the Ryder Cup, that's 18 holes. The game is played by holes, and a hole is won by the side that holes its ball in the fewer strokes. The state of the match is expressed by the terms: so many "holes up," "all square," and so many "to play." A side is "dormie" when it is as many holes up as there are holes remaining to be played.
Here's a little trivia for you. Dormie comes from the word "dormir," which shares a French and Latin origin. "Dormir" means to sleep." So, "dormie" is used to say that a player has reached a match play lead that is insurmountable (i.e. 3 up with 3 to play). The player can relax, knowing he can't lose the match. Basically, it communicates "Take it easy (or go to sleep). You can't lose."
The three formats used are four-ball, foursome, and single match play.
Four-ball is a match in which two players play their better ball against the better ball of two other players. When the Rules of Golf say "better ball," it means the better score. It's called four-ball because four balls are in play with each of the four players competing. In America, we commonly call this "best ball." So, if the best score for the team of you and me is a 4 on the first hole, and Tom and Jane's best score is a 5, we're 1 up in the match.
A foursome match is where two players play against two other players, and each side plays one ball. One way to remember its name is because the four players only hit "some" of the shots. Americans commonly call this "alternate shot." In the Ryder Cup, one partner will hit tee shots on the odd-numbered holes, and the other will tee-off on the even-numbered holes.
Single match play is one player competing against another. It's as basic as match play can get - just you and your opponent.
On Friday and Saturday mornings, the teams will play four four-ball matches, and in the afternoons, they'll play four foursome matches. On Sunday, they'll play 12 singles matches.
If a match is won, a point is awarded to the winning side. If the match is halved, both sides earn a half-point.
The team who holds the Ryder Cup needs 14 points to win. The team without the trophy must earn 141/2 points. Team USA won the trophy back in 2008. Hopefully, that happens again in 2010.
Best of luck to Captain Corey Pavin and his squad. Go USA!