The Ryder Cup is contested over three days and 28 matches, each of which is worth one point.
The current champion retains possession of the Ryder Cup in the event of a tie (14 points). The United States team needs a minimum of 14 1/2 points for an outright victory.
The first day of competition features eight matches between two-man teams -- four foursomes, or alternate shot matches, and four four-ball, or best-ball matches. The format for the second day of play is identical. The final day of the competition features 12 singles matches.
All 28 matches are contested under a match-play format, where by players compete against each other, not the course. The score is recorded as holes won or lost. Unlike traditional stroke play, a cumulative score is not kept.
For example: Player A from the United States makes a four on the first hole. Player B from Europe makes a five. Player A completed the hole in less strokes than player B, so player A wins the hole. In match play terminology, Player A is 1-up. Conversely, Player B is 1-down.
As soon as one participant or team has clearly won the hole, the opponent doesn't have to hole out. He can pick up his ball and proceed to the next tee. A player may concede a shot or an entire hole at any time. Players generally concede putts when the opposing player is within "gimme" range on the green. Occasionally a player will struggle so badly on a hole (hit numerous drives out of bounds, etc.) that he or she will concede the hole before either player reaches the green.
The match is decided when one player leads by more holes than the number of holes remaining.
Final match play scores are reported as follows: Player A def. Player B, 3 and 2. This means that player A led player B by three holes, and only two holes remained. A match that ended 3 and 2 would conclude on the 16th hole.
2 up thru 11: A player/twosome who is 2 up thru 11 has won two more holes than their opponent(s) through 11 holes.
All Square thru 15: The match is tied through 15 holes.
2 up: A player/twosome who wins 2 up has won two more holes than his opponent through 18 holes.
3 and 2: A player/twosome who wins 3 and 2 had won three holes more than their opponent(s) with only two holes left to play, mathematically assuring victory.
Below is a guide to some of the terms unique to match play and the Ryder Cup.
All square: This term refers to a match that is in progress and tied up.
Captain's pick: Players who have not qualified for the team based on points, but were selected by the captain to play for the team.
Concedes: When a player or a team concedes a putt, the opponent or opponents do not have to finish out the hole.
Dormie: Dormie is the term used when the lead in a match is equal to the number of holes left to be played. The team or player leading is said to be dormie and can do no worse than halve the match.
Down: The number of stokes or holes you are behind your opponent.
Four-ball: Two teams of two golfers competing in a best-ball format. Each golfer plays his own ball and the best score of the two counts for the team.
Foursomes: Two teams of two golfers competing in an alternate shot format. One player tees off on the odd holes, the other on even. They alternate shots until the hole is completed.
Halved: A hole is halved if each side finishes in the same number of strokes.
Honor: The honor goes to the last player or team to win a hole. The player with the honor tees off first.
Match play: This is a form of competition where each hole is won, lost or halved. The winner is whoever won the most holes. A winning score of 3 and 2 means that the winner won by 3 holes with 2 left to play.
Observer: An 'observer' is one who is appointed by the Committee to assist a referee to decide questions of fact and to report to him any breach of a Rule.
Singles: One player versus another. The player who takes the least number of strokes wins the hole.
Standings: The Ryder Cup is contested over three days. 'Standings' refer to what took place throughout the day. The team earning the most points leads.