What Happens If the Ryder Cup Ends in a Tie Score?

Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy shake hands following a tie in a Ryder Cup match.

Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Ryder Cup is one of the biggest events in a golf, an every-other-year tournament in which male, pro golfers representing Team USA and Team Europe square off in match play. Under the current format, there are 28 points at stake in a Ryder Cup. Each match is valued at one point, meaning there are 28 matches. But what happens if one of those matches ends in a tie, or if the entire Ryder Cup finishes with a tie score?

If a Match in the Ryder Cup Ends in a Tie

A tie match — called a "halve" (or halved match) in match-play parlance — in the Ryder Cup does not proceed to a playoff. It simply ends after the 18th hole. With one point at stake per match, each side in a halved Ryder Cup match receives a half-point.

If the Overall Final Score of a Ryder Cup Is a Tie

The Ryder Cup ended in a 14-14 tie? What happens? A tie goes to the team that already holds the cup.

If the final score of any given Ryder Cup is a tie, the competition is considered halved. No team is called the winner, but the team that entered the Ryder Cup holding the trophy gets to keep it. So a tie in the Ryder Cup results in the trophy remaining with the team that won the previous competition.

And that means that to claim the Ryder Cup trophy:

  • The team that lost the previous cup has to win the current tournament outright; that is, it has to earn 14.5 of the 28 possible points.
  • But the defending champions — the team that holds the cup — only has to tie (earn at least 14 of the possible 28 points) to keep possession of the cup.

List: Ties in the Ryder Cup

Halved matches are common in Ryder Cup play. Every Ryder Cup since the expansion of the competition to 28 points (and in most prior to that) includes at least a few halves.

But the overall Ryder Cup ending in a tie score is a rarity. It has happened only twice so far in the event's history:

  • 1989: Europe 14, USA 14 (Defending champion Europe retained the cup)
  • 1969: USA 16, Great Britain 16 (Defending champion USA retained the cup)