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


  • Hurley William J

    (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.

Suggested Citation

  • Hurley William J, 2007. "The Ryder Cup: Are Balanced Four-Ball Pairings Optimal?," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 3(4), pages 1-20, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jqsprt:v:3:y:2007:i:4:n:6

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    Cited by:

    1. Ball Michael O & Halper Russell, 2009. "Scramble Teams for the Pinehurst Terrapin Classic," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-25, May.
    2. Puterman Martin L & Wittman Stefan M, 2009. "Match Play: Using Statistical Methods to Categorize PGA Tour Players' Careers," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-63, January.
    3. Grasman Scott E. & Thomas Barrett W., 2013. "Scrambled experts: team handicaps and win probabilities for golf scrambles," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 9(3), pages 217-227, September.

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