What Happens If the Ryder Cup Ends in a Tie?

Let's say Team Europe and Team USA are playing a hard-fought, very closely contested Ryder Cup. It comes down to the final match, and when that match ends, both teams have the same number of points. It's a tie score. What happens?

The answer is straightforward: Nothing happens. A tie is a tie. There is no playoff to determine a winner. But that leads to the follow-up question: Which side gets the trophy in the event of a tie — or do they share it?

In the event of a Ryder Cup tie, there is no winning side and no losing side, but the trophy (the actual Ryder Cup) stays with the team that already had it. In the event of a tie, in other words, the trophy stays with the defending champion.

As the Ryder Cup is played today, there are 28 points total at stake over the three days of competition. So a tie means the final scores is 14 to 14. Because the defending champion gets to keep the Cup in the event of a tie, the team that holds the Cup going into a new Ryder Cup competition must win only 14 points to retain ownership. The team without the Cup, however, has to earn 14.5 points to win it away from the defending champion.

What About Ties in Individual Matches?

Let's say Golfer A and Golfer B are playing a singles match on Day 3 of the Ryder Cup. Their match ends all square — a tied score — on the 18th hole. What happens? Again, it's just a tie, there is no playoff. Since every match is worth one point in the Ryder Cup, any match in foursomes, fourballs or singles that ends tied results in each side or player earning a half-point for their team. (Tied matches are also called "halved matches," and ties can be called "halves.")

Ties in individual matches within the Ryder Cup are common. But what about ties in the final score? That leads us to:

Has the Ryder Cup Ever Ended in a Tie?

Yes, the overall score of the Ryder Cup has ended with both sides having the same points. But ties in the final score are not common.

The Ryder Cup was first played in 1927. It takes place every other year. The 2021 Ryder Cup was the 43rd time the competition was played. But there have been only two ties in Ryder Cup history:

  • 1969 Ryder Cup: They played 32 matches then, and the score ended at 16-16. Team USA was the defending champion (the opponent at that time was Team Great Britain & Ireland) and so held onto the Cup.
  • 1989 Ryder Cup: Team Europe had replaced Team GB&I by this point, and the format was what it is today — 28 points at stake. This Ryder Cup ended 14-14, and Europe, as the defending champ, retained the Cup.

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