The Ryder Cup Guide

Leigh Copson:
The Ryder Cup trophy (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Archive/PA Images).

The Ryder Cup is an unique golf tournament and it's one that can be really profitable, due to the match play set up which lends itself really well to betting both pre-event and in-play.

It is a team sport with win-draw-loss on the outright, single match and even hole-by-hole, which means betting is much more straight-forward than at the regular season golf events, where 100+ players are competing for one prize.

There are various different methods which can be employed when betting on this biennial golf tournament between USA and Europe. The key is research and knowing the format, the players and the intricacies of all of the various betting markets available.

What is the format of the Ryder Cup?

The Ryder Cup is a biennial golf team event that is played between USA and Europe at alternating venues every two years. Each team consists of 12 players, a captain and two or three vice-captains.

The qualifying criteria for Team USA and Team Europe differs slightly but it is ultimately each team putting forward their best 12 golfers to compete over three days for the prestigious Ryder Cup trophy. One key to note is that neither the captain nor his vice-captains play any golf. They are involved in coaching, motivation and choosing who plays in which event but they don’t actually swing any clubs.

There are a total of 28 matches played over the course of the three days of the tournament and the team that has the most points wins. It is also key to note that the previous winners will retain the trophy if the scores are level and the Ryder Cup will only change hands if there is a majority of 14.5 – 13.5 of greater.

Match Play

The Ryder Cup is one of the very few golf tournaments which uses match play rules and, as such, operates a little different from the normal events on the European and PGA Tour. Match play is where a player goes head-to-head with his opponent with a point awarded for each hole (half a point for a tied score on a hole). At the end of the round the player with the most holes won, regardless of the final scores of the two rounds, wins the match.


Anyone who plays club golf will know what a fourball is and the name is a bit of a giveaway. There are four players and each of them play the hole, with the winner being the player who shoots the lowest score on that particular hole. In Ryder Cup the fourballs will consist of two players from Team Europe and two players from Team USA. The point for the hole is won by whoever shoots the lowest score. The other player’s score is irrelevant. So, for example, if an American player makes a birdie four on a par 5 and both Europeans make par then USA will win the hole, even if the other American took ten shots.


Foursomes are a far more intriguing type of match-up and one which will be relatively new to most golf fans. It is unique to the team competition of the Ryder Cup and sees four players in a group, two from Team USA and two from Team Europe, but only two balls being played. The players in each team take it in turns to hit a shot (Player 1 takes the drive, Player 2 hits the approach, Player 3 plays the putt) with the lowest scoring team winning the hole. Foursomes relies far more on team work and understanding between the two pairs and only works if the captain puts complementary players together.


The final day of the Ryder Cup sees all 12 players from each team in action in singles play. This is simply one player from Team Europe and one player from Team USA in each match going head-to-head. The player who wins the most holes at the end of the 18 will win a point for their team.


How To Bet On The Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup has always been a popular betting event due largely to the fact that the scoring system appeals to both golfers and non-golfers.

It is very easy to follow throughout the tournament and so it is easy keep track of bets and see who is winning at any particular time.

The markets have expanded over time, to deal with the rise in popularity of online betting and the sophistication of punters, and there are now a multitude of different Ryder Cup bets which can be placed either before or during the tournament.

Winner: This is the simplest and ‘purest’ form of betting on the Ryder Cup. The bet is simply who will win the competition and is settled on which team has the most points at the end of the event. There are, however, two different types of Ryder Cup winner bet, those that include the draw and those that do not. In the event of a draw the winner will be the team who previously held the trophy but if there is an option of betting on a draw then a tied score would result in a losing bet.

Correct Score: This is another popular pre-match market which involves picking the Correct Score. It may, on the face of it, appear to be an almost impossible task but a look through recent history shows that there are reoccurring and there are several which can be eliminated almost instantly (28-0 for example is pretty unlikely!) The odds on the Correct Score market tend to be very generous and it is a bet that gives punters an interest until the very last groups on the very last day. There is even the possibility of a player needing a putt on the final green to win your bet, which adds to the thrill and excitement.

Top Points Scorer: The Top Points Scorer market is the other major pre-match bet that can be placed on the Ryder Cup and is another which offers both fun and excitement all the way through the competition. The odds on picking a player to be the Top Points Scorer are usually fairly generous so there is the possibility of a big return from a small stake. Most bookmakers will also offer Each-Way terms of 1/3 odds for the top three finishers in the standings, which means there is a strong chance of making some profits. One thing to note in the Top Points Scorer market is that ‘dead heat’ rules will apply. This means that if two players tie for most points scored then the odds will be halved. Eg. You back Rory McIlroy at 10/1 to be Top Points Scorer and he ties with Jordan Spieth. The payout on McIlroy will be at 5/1.

Foursomes, Fourballs & Singles: Every day there will be odds released on who will win the individual matches in each session, with bookmakers offering odds on foursomes, fourballs and singles. These operate on a Win-Draw-Loss basis, exactly the same as any Football match would. The winner is the team or player who wins the point for their team.

Accumulators: Accumulators on Ryder Cup matches are very popular and each session people will back multiples of two, three or four selections in order to increase their odds. If there is a ‘Clean Sweep’ and either Team Europe or Team USA wins every match in a Fourballs or Foursomes session then the bookmakers will be looking at huge payouts, due to the number of people who have backed the multiple of all four pairings from each team.

Team Europe celebrates with the trophy on day three of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Paris (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Archive/PA Images).
Team Europe celebrates with the trophy on day three of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Paris (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Archive/PA Images).


Ryder Cup Betting Tips & Tactics

The fact that the Ryder Cup is so different from other golf tournaments means that the normal rules of golf betting (recent form, course form, driving distance, greens in regulation etc) don’t really apply in the same way. Instead it is better to focus on the unique aspects of the tournament itself and look for pointers before placing your bet. Here are a few key ones to consider:

The Best Team Will Beat The Best Group Of Players

This is advice that is probably good for all sports but it seldom applies in golf, which is one of the most individualistic sports that exists. Ultimately, in a round of golf there is very little that you can do if one player is better than you. The person that shoots the best score wins the tournament and then everyone goes home. However, in the Ryder Cup, with its multi-format matches, there is a huge onus on playing for your team. In the Foursomes and Fourballs particularly it is important that the players work with each other.

Often in a partnership there will be one player who takes risks and another that takes the safety route in order to maximise chances of winning the hole but minimise the chances of losing. Two wayward drives probably mean that a team will lose the hole but two irons from the tee when one player in the other team has hit a drive to the edge of the green is equally as bad.

The team spirit also extends beyond simply the players on the course as the captains, vice-captains and players who have either not been selected for a session or have finished their rounds all have a vital part to play in supporting their team-mates. Golfers are used to competing against each other week-in week-out but if they can bond over the three days of the Ryder Cup then their team will have a good chance of winning. If they can’t then they will have problems as a group of players playing for themselves will not win the competition.

Look For Good Partnerships

Down the years there have been numerous famous Ryder Cup partnerships that have helped their teams to win, with none more celebrated than that of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. The Spanish ‘amigos’ had a fantastic relationship off the course and this made them virtually unbeatable on it, with the pair picking up an incredible 12 points from 15 matches played together. By contrast, there have been some famous failures with Team USA captain Hal Sutton’s decision to go with a “Dream Team” of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods backfiring spectacularly in 2004.

Look For Players Who Do Well In Match Play

There is a huge difference between Match Play and Stroke Play golf and there are some players who thrive on the head-to-head battle and some who visible shrink when put in that situation. Colin Montgomerie never won a major championship but never lost a singles match in eight Ryder Cups. Similarly, Ian Poulter came alive in the team format and was always a dependable player for Team Europe despite a lack of form throughout the rest of the season.

Poulter is, in fact, one of a number of examples of players who excelled in the Match Play format. The Englishman is one of a small group of players, alongside Hunter Mahan and Luke Donald to have won the WGC World Match Play yet never really made any impact at any of the majors.

Bet On Players Who Will Play Every Match

The Top Points Scorer market will consist of 24 players but that doesn’t mean that any of the 24 players can be the highest scoring player as there are several who simply won’t be picked enough by their captain to amass the required points. There will be a core group of players in each team who the captains will select for each session and these will be the men to focus on for the Top Points Scorer market.

Rookies don’t tend to be given as much playing time as others for the obvious reason that they are not experienced in the different Ryder Cup formats. The captains are more likely to mix things up on Day One and see how their inexperienced players perform before giving them the nod on Day Two. If you are backing a rookie to be Top Points Scorer then it is with a little bit of faith that he is going to be able to strike up an instant rapport with his partner.


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Ryder Cup Winners



1927United States9.5 – 2.5Massachusetts, USATed RayWalter Hagen
1929Great Britain7 – 5Leeds, EnglandGeorge DuncanWalter Hagen
1931United States9 – 3Columbus, Ohio, USACharles WhitcombeWalter Hagen
1933Great Britain6.5 – 5.5Southport, EnglandJohn Henry TaylorWalter Hagen
1935United States9 – 3Paramus, New Jersey, USACharles WhitcombeWalter Hagen
1937United States8 – 4Southport, EnglandCharles WhitcombeWalter Hagen
1947United States11 – 1Portland, Oregon, USAHenry CottonBen Hogan
1949United States7 – 5Scarborough, EnglandCharles WhitcombeBen Hogan
1951United States9.5 – 2.5Pinehurst, N Carolina, USAArthur LaceySam Snead
1953United States6.5 – 5.5Wentworth, EnglandHenry CottonLloyd Mangrum
1955United States8 – 4Rancho Mirage, California, USADai ReesChick Harbert
1957Great Britain7.5 – 4.5Worksop, EnglandDai ReesJack Burke Jr
1959United States8.5 – 3.5Indian Wells, California, USADai ReesSam Snead
1961United States14.5 – 9.5Lytham St Annes, EnglandDai ReesJerry Barber
1963United States23 – 9Atlanta, Georgia, USAJohn FallonArnold Palmer
1965United States19.5 – 12.5Southport, EnglandHarry WeetmanByron Nelson
1967United States23.5 – 8.5Houston, Texas, USADai ReesBen Hogan
1969United States16 – 16Southport, EnglandEric BrownSam Snead
1971United States18.5 – 13.5St Louis, Missouri, USAEric BrownJay Herbert
1973United States19 – 13East Lothian, ScotlandBernard HuntJack Burke Jr
1975United States21 – 11Ligonier, Pennsylvania, USABernard HuntArnold Palmer
1977United States12.5 – 7.5Lytham St Annes, EnglandBrian HuggettDow Finsterwald
1979United States17 – 11West Virginia, USAJohn JacobsBilly Casper
1981United States18.5 – 9.5Walton-on-the-Hill, EnglandJohn JacobsDave Marr
1983United States14.5 – 13.5Palm Beach Gdns, Florida, USATony JacklinJack Nicklaus
1985Europe16.5 – 11.5Wishaw, EnglandTony JacklinLee Trevino
1987Europe15 – 13Dublin, Ohio, USATony JacklinJack Nicklaus
1989Europe14 – 14Wishaw, EnglandTony JacklinRaymond Floyd
1991United States14.5 – 13.5Kiawah Island, S Carolina, USABernard GallacherDave Stockton
1993United States15 – 13Wishaw, EnglandBernard GallacherTom Watson
1995Europe14.5 – 13.5Rochester, New York, USABernard GallacherLanny Wadkins
1997Europe14.5 – 13.5Andalusia, SpainSeve BallesterosTom Kite
1999United States14.5 – 13.5Massachusetts, USAMark JamesBen Crenshaw
2002Europe15.5 – 12.5Wishaw, EnglandSam TorranceCurtis Strange
2004Europe18.5 – 9.5Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USABernhard LangerHal Sutton
2006Europe18.5 – 9.5County Kildare, IrelandIan WoosnamTom Lehman
2008United States16.5 – 11.5Louisville, Kentucky, USANick FaldoPaul Azinger
2010Europe14.5 – 13.5Newport, WalesColin MontgomerieCorey Pavin
2012Europe14.5 – 13.5Medinah, Illinois, USAJose Maria OlazabalDavis Love III
2014Europe16.5 – 11.5Perth & Kinross, ScotlandPaul McGinleyTom Watson
2016United States17 – 11Chaska, Minnesota, USADarren ClarkeDavis Love III
2018Europe17.5 – 10.5St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, FranceThomas BjornJim Furyk