Presidents Cup Match Play Formats
Like the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup consists of Four Ball, Foursomes and Singles matches. Thursday consists of five foursomes matches. Friday has five four-ball matches. Saturday has four foursomes and four four-ball matches. Sunday has twelve singles matches.
In Foursomes, players form two teams of two, and play one ball per team. Players alternate shots and alternate on tee shots. The team with the lowest score on each hole wins that hole for the team.
“Four Balls” sometimes also is known as “best ball,” in that the best ball on each hole wins. A “Four Ball” match is played in teams of two, with each team member playing his own ball throughout the holes. Four players; four balls. At the end of each hole, the team’s low score is counted to determine who wins the hole.
In the twelve singles matches, individual players are sent out in pairs.
Match Play in general also deserves an explanation.
Match Play can be conducted either in teams or as individuals. The Presidents Cup uses both. In Match Play, golfers are concerned—not with the field—but with beating the players they are playing against directly.
The most confusing part of Match Play is in the scoring. Each hole in a Match is a separate event, and is taken in isolation. The team or player who finishes the hole in the fewest strokes wins the hole. The one who wins the most holes out of eighteen wins the match.
The hole-by-hole format means that it’s possible (and probable) that one team or player will get far enough ahead that the other has no chance of winning. For example, if the International and American teams finish the 16th hole, and the Internationals have won three more than the Americans, there is no need to continue. At best, the Americans could win both remaining holes, and still would be one hole down to the Internationals. So the match is called at 16. The final result would be Internationals 3 and 2. That means that the International team won because they were up by three holes, with two holes left.
The scoring system in match play has some peculiar terminology. Match play results are reported by how many more (or fewer) holes a player has won, along with the number of holes left. Suppose that, after ten holes, the Americans have won four holes, the International Team has won two and they’ve tied on four others. The score is reported as the US being two up through 10. At the same time, the International Team is 2-down through 10. If both have won the same number of holes, the score would be reported as “All Square Through 10.”
If a team wins 1-up, that means that the match has gone to 18 holes. The last hole was played either because the match was all square after 17, or because a team was only 1 up, and the other could have made the match All Square on the final hole.
The term “Halve” is used when players tie on an individual hole. However, because tied holes are not counted in scoring an individual match, you’ll never see a score like US 3 1/2 Internationals 1 1/2.
This also explains why there will often be a result where the holes just don’t add up. The US could win four holes, the Internationals win three and they could tie the other 11. If you just added up the number of holes won, it would look like they didn’t play a full match.
A “Dormie” is when one is up by the exact number of holes left in the match. At this point, the best the opponent can do is to tie. So, if they’re on the 16th tee, and the Internationals are 3-Up, the match is Dormie. The best the US can do is to win the final three holes (16, 17 and 18)and make things All Square.
One seemingly strange score occurs when a player or team wins 5 and 3. On the surface, it looks as though the match should have ended with four holes to play, because one was up by five. But what actually happened was that the match was Dormie with four to go. That is, the US was 4-Up on the 15th tee (four holes to go). At this point, the International team can Halve the match by winning the final four holes. But the US wins the 15th, and the match is over. The US wins by five, with three to go, or 5 and 3.
Another interesting aspect of Match Play is that the players do not need to finish every hole. Consider the following situation: Jordan Spieth hits a hole-in-one on a par three. Oosthuizen hits the green within inches of the cup, but the ball does not go in. At this point, there is no need for Oosthuizen to finish the hole, and he will concede to Spieth. Even if Oosthuizen finishes with a birdie, he still has lost the hole. And there is no need to see if Oosthuizen can make the putt because unlike Stroke Play, the score does not carry over to the next hole.
Similarly, players often will “concede” a stroke. This usually happens on a short putt. For example, if Spieth knows that Oosthuizen is going to make the tap-in, he might grant “gimmie.” The real question for that hole is whether Spieth can make the 12 footer to win the hole, or if he two putts for a halve.
There are also a couple of other major rules differences in Match Play. For example, in Stoke Play, if you play out of order, it’s just a breach of etiquette. But in Match Play, your opponent can force you to replay the shot.
The other major changes generally have to do with the penalty for breach of rules. In Stroke play, most of the penalties involve the addition of strokes. In Match Play, the rules violations generally involve the automatic loss of the hole.
For my money, match play is the most exciting form of golf