For nearly every week of the golfing calendar, it is all about the individual as they battle it out over 72 holes of strokeplay to decide the winner. It is every golfer’s battle against the course and their own demons compared that with that of their competitors, with the player with the fewest shots walking off as the winner.

But then there is the RYDER CUP. The 12 best players from Europe against their 12 counterparts from the United States. Us against them. Blue against red. A collection of nations against golf’s superpower country. There is no middle ground in the Ryder Cup. It’s win or lose, go hard or go home. And it captures the emotions like no other golfing event on the planet.

For those of us new to the game or not too sure about this feast of golf, here at AMERICAN GOLF, we are determined that nobody is excluded from this spectacular. That’s why this guide should give us a flavour of what has gone before and excitement about what will happen in the latest instalment.


History of the Ryder Cup:

By the middle of the 1920s, it was becoming common for a number of leading American professionals to travel over to play in The Open. Ahead of the tournament in 1926, it was organised for a team of ten American pros to arrive early in England to play a team of ten British pros in a match to be staged at Wentworth. It was announced that businessman and golf enthusiast Samuel Ryder, who played at Verulam Golf Club in St Albans, would donate a trophy for this inaugural competition. This unofficial match was held with Britain winning 13-1.

Plans were then put in place for an official match to be held the following year at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, bearing Samuel Ryder’s name, with the USA setting up a qualifying process to ensure their best US-born players made the team, rather than the informal line-up that had played at Wentworth the year before. The British team, made up largely of the same players from 1926, travelled by boat across the Atlantic for six days from Southampton on the Aquitania.

There were to be 12 matches, comprised of four foursomes and eight singles, which the Americans won 9.5-2.5 to become the first ever winners of the Ryder Cup. Samuel Ryder had wanted the match to be contested on an annual basis, but the complications of travel meant that a return was moved back a year to 1929 to take place at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds. And so the biennial format of the Ryder Cup was established.   

Ryder Cup expansion:

For the first 19 editions of the Ryder Cup, it was Great Britain against the USA. But in reality, that was a mismatch as Great Britain won only three of those with one match drawn.

From 1973, Irish players were included as the team became Great Britain and Ireland, but it had little impact on the result as the Americans continued to dominate. Something had to change.

That arrived in 1979 with the inclusion of players from continental Europe, so it became Europe against the USA. There were two benefits to this as it enabled Seve Ballesteros to play in the match, as he and fellow Spaniard Antonio Garrido became the first Europeans to appear. The 22-year-old Ballesteros, a golfing phenomenon would go on to become a Ryder Cup legend as a player and a captain.

The other benefit was actually for the Americans, who felt that the Ryder Cup was turning into too much of an exhibition given that the outcome did not feel in doubt. Their top players like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino believed that increased competition was needed for it to remain relevant on the golfing calendar. That has certainly proved true over the subsequent years!

Europe finally won the Ryder Cup in 1985 at The Belfry under the inspirational captaincy of Tony Jacklin, before winning for the first time on American soil in 1987. Suddenly when the USA won the Ryder Cup back in 1991, it was a big deal and matches have generally swayed back-and-forth between the two sides ever since. One thing that has not changed is that the Ryder Cup generates three days of must-see TV for even the most casual golf fan.         


The Ryder Cup is scheduled to be played over three days, Friday 29th September, Saturday 30th and Sunday 1st October. The Ryder Cup format consists of 28 match play games spread across the three days.

Friday: Morning: 4 Foursomes (06:35 BST, 06:50, 07:05, 07:20)

Afternoon: 4 Fourballs (11:25 BST, 11:40, 11:55, 12:10)

Saturday: Morning: 4 Foursomes (06:35 BST, 06:50, 07:05, 07:20)

Afternoon: 4 Fourballs (11:25 BST, 11:40, 11:55, 12:10)

Sunday: 12 Singles (10:35 BST, with 12-minute intervals between games)

On the Friday and Saturday mornings, four foursomes matches will be contested. That is the alternate shot format where two players share one ball and take it in turns to hit.

Then on each of the Friday and Saturday afternoons, four fourball games will be played. Each of the four players hits their own ball with the best score from each team counting at every hole.

For each of those four sessions, eight players from each side are on the course with the other four on the sidelines. The captain is under no obligation to pick any particular player, he can choose who he likes. The captain can also use any number of different pairings. For example, Rory McIlroy could have four different partners across the first two days in Rome or he may have the same one for all four sessions. There is no set limit.

Finally on the Sunday, there are 12 singles matches involving every single player from both teams. That is the only guaranteed match for any player. The two captains select their order of players from one to 12 without the other captain’s knowledge, so there could be any permutation of matches. In most circumstances, captains opt to blood every single player at least once before the singles so they are not cold before a potentially vital singles match on the final day. However, in 1999, Europe captain Mark James excluded Andrew Coltart, Jean van de Velde and Jarmo Sandelin from all foursomes and fourball sessions. All three of them lost as the US came from 10-6 down to win 14.5-13.5 at Brookline.      

Every match is worth 1 point. If the match is all-square (or level) after 18 holes, each team earns a half point. The magic number is 14.5 points. That is the number that will guarantee victory in the Ryder Cup.

However, if the contest finishes 14-14, the team which holds the Ryder Cup (in this case the USA after their victory at Whistling Straits two years ago), retains it – similar to how it works in cricket’s Ashes between England and Australia.   

The leaderboards on the course and on the television are very simple to understand. If Europe are winning a particular match, it goes up in blue. If the Americans are winning, the board is red.   

Where is the Ryder Cup being played:

The venue for the 2023 Ryder Cup is Marco Simone Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of Rome. It is the first time that the event has been held in Italy. It is only the third time the match has been staged in continental Europe after Valderrama (1997, Spain) and Le Golf National (2018, France).

It was chosen ahead of venues in Germany, Austria and Spain. Since that decision in 2015, the course has undergone a complete Ryder Cup redesign to prepare it for the big match. The course has been used in competition for the last three editions of the Italian Open.

Huge grandstands have been erected for the Ryder Cup to accommodate up to 50,000 spectators per day while on the grandstand overlooking the 12th and 13th holes, spectators will be able to see as far as St Peter’s Basilica in the centre of Rome. That image that is guaranteed to be at the centre of TV productions and a key selling point in the venue landing this prestigious event.  


Each team is made up of 12 players. In both cases this year, Europe and the USA are comprised of six players who qualified automatically on a qualifying list staged over at least a year, and then six players chosen by the captain. They are known as wildcards. Let’s have a look at who will be wearing team colours in Italy.

Europe Ryder Cup Team:

Captain: Luke Donald – Englishman Luke Donald has the honour of leading Europe for this match. He came into the job late after Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was relinquished from the role last July, having agreed to join the breakaway LIV Golf circuit. Donald, now 45, played in four Ryder Cups, in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012 and was on the winning side every time. He is a former world no.1 golfer and in 2011, he won the most money on both the European and American circuits.


Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland): With Tiger Woods largely absent from the pro game because of injury, Rory has taken the mantle as the biggest name in golf. His performance in the Ryder Cup two years ago reduced him to tears – expect him to be desperate to make amends.

Jon Rahm (Spain): The reigning Masters Champion will fly the Spanish flag. He will bring plenty of Latin passion as he follows in the footsteps of hero Seve Ballesteros. 

Bob MacIntyre (Scotland, rookie): The first Scottish player to appear in a Ryder Cup for nine years as he grabbed the final automatic spot. The only left-handed player at this year’s match.

Viktor Hovland (Norway): As Norwegians make a mark in Premier League football, tennis and athletics, Hovland is doing it in golf. He brilliantly won the PGA Tour’s Fed-Ex Cup last month. 

Tyrrell Hatton (England): Hatton’s short temper usually gets him fired up for most golf tournaments. Imagine what the Ryder Cup will do!

Matt Fitzpatrick (England): The US Open Champion in 2022, Fitzpatrick has not won a point in two previous Ryder Cups. That will surely change in Italy.

Justin Rose (England): At 43, the veteran of the European team. He missed out two years ago but a win at Pebble Beach earlier this year marked a return to form.

Tommy Fleetwood (England): The popular Englishman had the crowds on his side as the local favourite at Royal Liverpool for The Open and it should be the same here.

Sepp Straka (Austria, rookie): Born in Vienna, but moved to America aged 14. He was runner-up at The Open in July to guarantee himself one of the wildcard spots.

Shane Lowry (Republic of Ireland): The winner of The Open on Irish soil in 2019, Lowry loves the big occasion. And they don’t come any bigger than a Ryder Cup at home.

Nicolai Hojgaard (Denmark, rookie): Nicolai is one half of golfing twins with brother Rasmus. Only 22, Nicolai has won two tournaments and Rasmus, four, but it’s Nicolai who got the nod from Luke Donald.

Ludvig Aberg (Sweden, rookie): The absolute definition of a Ryder Cup rookie. Aberg, 23, was selected as a wildcard on the back of just nine professional events and not a single Major.  

USA Ryder Cup Team:

Captain: Zach Johnson – He is tasked with ending American misery on the road in the Ryder Cup as it is now 30 years since they last won the match outside of the States. Johnson is a veteran of five Ryder Cups, but it was not until his final playing appearance in 2016 that he finished on the winning team. However, Europe should be wary of writing off Johnson. As a player, Johnson is not the longest but he found a way to beat the big hitters to triumph on the two most famous courses in world golf – Augusta and St Andrews. So if he can win The Masters and The Open against the odds, maybe he is the right man to pull off a Ryder Cup heist for the Americans.


Scottie Scheffler: The current World No.1 is a tremendously consistent player. But if Scheffler has one weakness, it’s with the putter. Not ideal for those nervy Ryder Cup short putts! 

Wyndham Clark (rookie): Played his way onto the team with superb victory at the US Open when he held off Rory McIlroy.

Max Homa (rookie): The likeable Californian makes his Ryder Cup debut after a strong run of form on the PGA Tour.

Brian Harman (rookie): A first Ryder Cup appearance for Harman was guaranteed after his dominant six-shot win in The Open. Can he bring that magic to Rome?

Patrick Cantlay: A money machine on the PGA Tour and a strong performer on debut in this event two years ago.

Xander Schauffele: Another golfer who is always high up the world rankings and the money lists, he was also hot in the 2021 Ryder Cup.

Jordan Spieth: A fifth consecutive Ryder Cup for the 30-year-old. He has been a brilliant foursomes and fourball partner in past matches with Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas.

Justin Thomas: Had a lousy year on the PGA Tour and a controversial wildcard pick by Zach Johnson. But Thomas was an inspirational figure in his previous Ryder Cups and the Americans want more of that.   

Rickie Fowler: Returns to the team after a big upturn in form in 2023. This is his fifth Ryder Cup, but his record is somewhat iffy.

Brooks Koepka: The only LIV golfer involved in this Ryder Cup. As the winner of the US PGA Championship in May, it was impossible for Zach Johnson to leave him out.

Sam Burns (rookie): The least well known American, he showed his credentials with victory in the individual World Match Play event in March.

Collin Morikawa: Almost flawless on debut in 2021, former Open winner Morikawa has not quite hit the heights since then, but he is a class player.       

About the Author

Adam Lanigan - Golf Writer

Adam is a freelance news and sports journalist who has written for the BBC, The Sunday Post, The I, The Times, The Telegraph and more. He has been writing about golf for nearly two decades and has covered 13 Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. Not only does Adam cover golf, but he has played golf for as long as he can remember. He was a member at Northenden Golf Club for around 25 years until his children arrived and his last official handicap was 11, although on any given day his form fluctuates anywhere between eight and 18.