The Presidents Cup Format Explained

The basic format for the Presidents Cup tournament, between Team USA and Team International, is four days of match play, 30 points total at stake, with the first three days doubles match play (2-vs.-2) and the final day singles match play.

Breaking Down the Current Presidents Cup Schedule

The four days of play (which are Thursday through Sunday) break down like this:
  • Day 1: Five matches are played, the scoring format either foursomes or fourball. The home team captain decides which format to use.
  • Day 2: Another five matches take place using the scoring format (foursomes or fourball) not used on Day 1.
  • Day 3: A total of eight matches are played, four foursomes and four fourballs, one format played in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
  • Day 4: Twelve singles matches, with all golfers on each team in action.
There are 12 golfers per team. Each golfer on a team is required to play only one match prior to the Day 4 singles. All matches are played only to the 18th hole, unless they end earlier; tied matches result in a half-point per side.

A team must win 15.5 points to win the Presidents Cup. If it ends in a 15-15 overall tie, the teams are co-winners and share the cup until the next tournament.

The Scoring Formats Used

The first three days of a Presidents Cup are dedicated to doubles match play, meaning 2-vs.-2. The formats are foursomes and fourball:
  • Foursomes is also known as alternate shot. Two golfers play as partners, but they use only one golf ball and alternate playing the strokes.
  • Fourball is a better-ball format: Two golfers play as partners, but each plays his own golf ball. The lower of the partners' scores counts as the team's score on each hole.
The final day is singles, straight-up, one-vs.-one match play.

Changes to the Presidents Cup Format Over the Years

In the 1994, 1996 and 1998 Presidents Cups, the tournament was only three days long. Since 2000, a 4-day schedule has been used. Beginning in 2003 and through the 2013 tournament, a total of 34 matches were played in each Cup. But that was reduced to 30 matches beginning in 2015.

Prior to 2015, singles matches continued until a winner emerged. However, that was also changed beginning in 2015: singles matches, from that point, are halved (a half-point to each side) if the two golfers are tied following 18 holes.

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