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The Ryder Cup "Retain" Rule HAS To Go, And I've Got The Best Solution For A Playoff

Andrew Redington. Getty Images.

Let's call a spade a spade. The retain rule is the dumbest rule going. Maybe in all of sports. 

If you're not familiar, if the Ryder Cup ends in a 14-14 deadlock, the team that won the previous Ryder Cup just….. wins. Sort of. They still call it a "draw" but they get to pop the champagne, they get the glory, they get the accolades and the spoils and they get to keep the trophy and everyone just….. goes home. It's a totally nonsensical way to conclude the 3 best action-packed days in all of golf.

We just watched it play out this past weekend in Spain at the Solheim Cup. The ladies on both sides played an AWESOME back and forth tournament that came right down to the final few singles matches. With Europe having won the previous Cup, they only needed to reach that magical 14 number to keep the Cup. Sure enough, hometown Spaniard Carlota Ciganda stepped up in a big way with a pair of absolute darts on 16 and 17 to get them there, but it rendered another incredibly juicy storyline virtually meaningless. 

Lexi Thompson has had a brutal year (think Justin Thomas this year but worse) and her captain's pick was pretty much based purely on brand name. She also has been dealing with a brutal case of the chipping yips and has a history of melting down on the greens in pressure-packed situations. She had a multiple hole lead on the back 9 and the drama of her trying to get that full point into the clubhouse to send the damn thing to a play-off would have been tremendous. While she was able to get that job done, all it earned the gals was an empty "draw". 

More than anything, we were all robbed of bonus golf with EVERYTHING on the line. That's what we live for with sports. It's just so preposterously dumb. The teams aren't even the same from year to year. Different players, different course… it's nonsense. 

Imagine if the Chiefs played the Niners in this year's Super Bowl and the game was knotted after 60 minutes… and they just ran the podium out there and gave Mahomes another trophy. Beyond stupid.

Max Homa summed it up really well this week:

"I've never liked ties. They don't make sense to me. The whole point of any competition is to see who wins, so I do not like ties. I do not like the retaining thing. I understand why they do it, but I'm not a fan of it. You have a completely new team, for instance, at the Solheim Cup, and they tied. Someone should play a playoff." 

Tyrell Hatton is on board as well, although maybe with a little less gusto given that he doesn't want to be viewed as a groveler on the wrong side of the retain rule this year:

"I think that would be a lot more exciting than just, 'That's a tie, like, oh, such-and-such retains the Cup. I don't think that's the best thing. I would say tying is probably not ideal. I think it would be quite interesting if there was a way of putting in a playoff, if that was to happen." 

Anywho. I promised a solution, and it's remarkably simple. 

The fellas and I have an annual Ryder Cup-style weekend called the Captain's Cup, as boys tend to do. We came up with this format when the event was created 4 years ago, and it finally came into play for the first time this year.

It's full-team alternate shot. It's exactly what it sounds like. You step to the tee. You pick one of your 12 guys to hit the tee shot. You go find said tee shot. You pick one of your 11 remaining guys to hit the next one. And so on and so forth. I think it's best if you don't have to set a predetermined order and bring in the dramatics of picking a player on the spot. Keeps everyone engaged and on their toes and the palpable energy as the captains pick their guy for each shot would be UNBELIEVABLE.

Our competition is only 4 on 4, so it works nicely as a one-hole playoff. For the Ryder Cup, you could go about it a few different ways:

  • Stick with the sudden death playoff and just play single holes until you get a winner. You have to go through your full roster of 12 guys before re-using a player.
  • 3-hole playoff. This increases the likelihood that everyone gets involved, although a team could win 2&1 and leave the 3rd hole unplayed.
  • Next day. 9 or 18 hole playoff. Just a full blown match with everyone involved. Hate when playoffs leak into Mondays, but it would be the golf event of the century. This longer format might lend itself to a predetermined playing order but either way it's AWESOME.

I cannot describe to you how amazing this format was when we put it into practice. Both teams went right off the tee and dealt with some trouble. The team discussions as to who might be the best candidate to try to punch-hook a shot around a tree or carry a bunker to a tucked pin were oozing with drama. There's also the forward thinking strategy of who you have left on the bench to hit that key chip or putt on the next shot. It was the best. It was a huge hit. I cannot recommend it enough.

It would be an even bigger hit on the world's biggest golf stage. Can you imagine 24 golfers, 24 caddies, 24 bags surrounding a tee box with the entire throng of a Ryder Cup crowd following them around the course? 

One of the very best aspects of the Ryder Cup is the pressure that comes with not letting down your teammate in an alternate shot format. Imagine that with your other 11 guys and your captains and your entire country/continent watching. As golf viewers we live to watch those pressure-packed moments, and this would bring that to an all-time high.

This is the way. I do not care how they implement it, just find a way to do a playoff with mega alternate shot. 

You're welcome, PGA.