Two sports fans, flush with cash after renting their suburban ramblers to groups of large Scottish men, walk into a downtown Chaska bar ...
Minnesota Sports Fan Number One: I’m fired up for some serious golf this weekend! I don’t understand half of it – OK, most of it – but I’m fired up!
Minnesota Sports Fan Number Two: Don’t understand what? The competition?
One: Basically, yeah. It’s USA vs. Europe. Guys trying to get birdies and all that. But I keep hearing about “Four-ball” and “match play” and, well, I keep waiting for someone to put the Ryder Cup in English for me.
Two: English? Or American? There’s a big difference when it comes to the Ryder Cup, you know.
One: American. Definitely, American. In fact, you have to explain this whole thing to me without saying “Four-ball,” or “All-square,” or “Dormie,” or …
Two: Got it. OK, here’s the scoop. It all starts Friday morning, early.
One: Three days, not four?
Two: Yep. The play on Friday and Saturday is broken into two halves. You know, like football.
One: Very funny. I’m following.
Two: And Sunday is singles play. One on one. That day will feel most like the golf you’re used to seeing: two guys trying to beat each other. Twelve one-on-one matches that day, USA vs. Europe, with each match worth a point, and …
One: Wait, points? What about par and strokes and all that?
Two: Oy. OK, starting from the top. There is a point system. They call it “match play” because each hole is a match in itself. You beat a guy on a hole, you win the hole. Whichever player -- or two-man team, but more on that in a minute -- wins the most holes over the course of the 18 holes, wins the full match and gets the point. So if I beat you on seven holes, we tied on five holes and you beat me on six holes – I get a point.
One: Got it. So they play all 18 holes, and …
Two: Oh, hold up. A match could end early. There could be a final handshake on, say, the 15th green.
Two: Say Player One has won eight holes, Player Two has won four holes and there were ties on three holes, with three holes to go -- meaning Player One is leading eight to four …
One: Math is hard ...
Two: Pay attention. So Player One has a four-hole advantage, with only three holes to go -- it’s over. Player Two can’t catch up. No reason to play out the final three holes.
One: Wait -- I actually understood that.
Two: They call that a 4-and-3 victory. And “3 and 2” if there’s an insurmountable lead with two holes to play. You get the picture.
One: I’m ready for this!
Two: Hang on. That’s just Sunday. Remember, Friday and Saturday -- those days are two-man teams, not individuals going against each other.
One: Yeah, but I’ve played in scrambles. I know how those work.
Two: You’re kidding right?
One: OK, Jack Nickolson, fill me in.
Two: Friday starts with … well, since I can’t say “Foursomes,” per your rules … groups of four players, two Americans against two Europeans. It’s pair vs. pair, alternate shot.
One: See, like a scramble.
Two: Sure. Anyway. You hit, I hit, you hit, I hit. And we rotate tee shots. And if a pair beats the other pair on a hole, they win the hole, and the scoring continues like we talked about earlier.
One: And they can end early, too?
Two: Yep. Same for the afternoon matches, which are … “Four-ball,” but I won’t say it … what you might know as “best ball.”
One: You’ve Americanized the Ryder Cup lingo, I love it.
Two: But an important difference: you don’t walk over to where my ball landed, you play the entire hole with your own shots. And we take the best score between the two of us for that hole.
One: I always like it when I can walk over to the other guy’s drive and play from there.
Two: Yes, I’ve seen you play. None of that at Hazeltine, though. Best score of the pair goes on the scorecard, and if whichever pair has that best score of the four scores wins the hole.
One: So, in the morning “Foursomes” there will be two balls in play on every hole – one for each pair. In the afternoon “Four-ball,” there will be four balls in play on every hole – one for each golfer.
Two: Look at you!
One: Ties? I suppose you’re going to say “Halved” or some other weird term.
Two: Halved. You’re right. Very good. Any of these two-golfer teams on Friday and Saturday can halve a hole. You can even halve the entire 18-hole match, leading to half-points.
One: Half-points? Ugh. I quit.
Two: Wait, I didn’t even tell you about conceding putts!
One: Gimmies? They have gimmies at the Ryder Cup?
Two: Gentlemen’s game. Any golfer can give another from the other team a gimmie on a short putt.
One: No chance I’d do that. Gotta make the putt! ... Do all 12 golfers play each day?
Two: Good question. No is the answer. Eight golfers from each team side play in the Friday and Saturday sessions. Meaning four guys at a time – morning, afternoon – will sit on the bench for a session.
One: But no benchwarmers on Sunday?
Two: Right. Everyone plays on Sunday.
One: So once all the halves and halved and the gimmies are given … who wins this thing?
Two: It’s a little complicated.
Two: The magic number, basically, is 14 total points. Remember, a point for each victorious round, half points for halved matches. Eight points are up for grabs on Friday -- four in the morning Foursomes session, four in the afternoon Four-ball session. Eight more on Saturday. Then 12 on Sunday, with all the individuals – for a total of 28 possible points, between all the various pairs and singles. Now, if Europe gets to 14 points, they retain the Ryder Cup. Americans need 14½ or more.
One: Kind of like in old-school wrestling, where you had to beat the champ in the ring to take his belt.
Two: The Ryder Cup and the WWF in the same thought -- we’ve now officially Americanized the Ryder Cup.
One: I bet you this entire gym bag full of Euros under my barstool that the Americans win.
Two: Save your money. I’ll take it from you on the course.
One: Don’t expect any gimmies.
STAR TRIBUNE SPORTS