The Ryder Cup: Are Balanced Four-Ball Pairings Optimal?

William J Hurley 1
  • 1 Royal Military College of Canada

In the 2004 Ryder Cup Matches, US Captain Hal Sutton decided to pair his two best players, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, in the opening four-ball match. The popular press characterized this pairing with the adjectives ``bold" and ``risky" since it is generally thought that balanced teams are preferable to unbalanced. In this paper I compare a Balanced strategy (matching stronger players with weaker players so that the resulting pairs are balanced) against an Unbalanced strategy (matching stronger players with stronger players and weaker players with weaker players) and find the Balanced strategy to be superior, but only slightly so.

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JQAS, an official journal of the American Statistical Association, publishes research on the quantitative aspects of professional and collegiate sports. Articles deal with subjects as measurements of player performance, tournament structure, and the frequency and occurrence of records. Additionally, the journal serves as an outlet for professionals in the sports world to raise issues and ask questions that relate to quantitative sports analysis.