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Explainer: here's everything you need to know about the 2012 Ryder Cup

There’s gonna be an awful lot of golf talk over the next few days and we wouldn’t want you to feel left out.

Image: Chris Carlson/AP/Press Association Images

What is it?

The Ryder Cup is a three-day golf match between teams from Europe and the United States.

Held every two years, the first Ryder Cup was between the US and Great Britain in 1927. The Americans kept winning though, so in 1973, the British team was expanded to Great Britain and Ireland.

That didn’t really help either, and after GB&I lost three successive matches, the kindly Americans allowed them to expand to include all of continental Europe from 1979 onwards.

When and where is it on?

The 2012 Ryder Cup takes place in Medinah Country Club, Illinois this weekend. There are three practice days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and an opening ceremony on Thursday evening. The real golf starts on Friday and wraps up on Sunday evening.

Because of the six-hour time difference between Medinah and Ireland, the action will tee off at 1.20pm BST on Friday and Saturday (7.20am local) and at 5.03pm BST (11.03am local) on Sunday.

How does the match work?

The Ryder Cup is matchplay (where the lowest score “wins” a hole) rather than strokeplay (where players compete against par).

There are five sessions of golf: two on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. Friday and Saturday start with four foursome matches in the morning and then have four fourball matches in the afternoon. On Sunday, all 12 players are paired off against each other and play one-on-one matchplay singles.

There are 28 points up for grabs over the three days, so 14.5 is the magic number needed to win the match and the Ryder Cup outright. If the match finishes in a draw — as it has on two occasions in the past — the holders retain the trophy so 14 points will be enough to bring the cup back to Europe this time.

“Fourballs” and “foursomes” – eh, what are they?

A foursome is two teams of two playing against each other. Each team uses one ball between them, with each player taking turns to hit alternate (“some”) shots until the hole is completed.

A fourball is also played in two teams of two, except each player plays his own ball to the finish. Whichever score is lowest is the team’s score for that hole.

Who is on the teams this year?

The United States team, captained by Davis Love III is:

Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson.

The European team, captained by Jose Maria Olazabal is:

Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts and Ian Poulter.

Is a terrible dress sense mandatory?

It’s not mandatory but at the Ryder Cup, it is par for the course (if you’ll excuse the awful, awful pun). It’s not really the players’ fault though as everybody wears matching outfits that are picked for them.

Who normally wins?

Although America dominated most of the early years and the post-war period, the match has been fairly even since the GB&I team was expanded to include Europe in 1979. Since then, there has been 16 matches — Europe have won eight, USA have won seven and there was one drawn match at the Belfry in 1989.

Europe have easily had the upper hand in recent years though and have won six of the last eight matches since 1995, including whopping 18.5-9.5 wins in 2004 and in 2006.

Who is going to win this year?

There’s not a huge amount to choose between the two teams but on home soil, the bookmakers make America the marginal favourites — Europe have only won three times out of eight trips stateside. Both teams have four of the world’s top 10 in their ranks but the Americans are in marginally better form of late.

Where can I watch it?

It’s all on Sky Sports. The action starts on Friday and Saturday at 12.30pm on Sky Sports 1 and runs through until 12.30am the next morning. On Sunday, tune in from 4pm for the final day’s play.

Photo album: 31 cracking pictures from the Ryder Cup archives

Read more of TheScore.ie’s Ryder Cup coverage here >

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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