Olympic champ Xander Schauffele among stars in action at 2021 Ryder Cup

Whistling Straits in Wisconsin holds the 43rd edition of the biennial U.S.–Europe golf tournament from 24–26 September.

By ZK Goh
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Reigning Olympic men's golf champion Xander Schauffele will be among the players in action representing the United States when the 43rd Ryder Cup, the biennial tournament between the U.S. and a team representing Europe, takes place at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from 24–26 September.

The Americans are looking to regain the Cup after Europe won it in 2018, and also looking for their first back-to-back home victories since a 13-in-a-row streak ended in 1983.

First-timer Schauffele is one of six captain's picks by Steve Stricker to form the 12-man American team, while world number one Jon Rahm is the top name on Team Europe, who are captained by Pádraig Harrington.

Three of the four Americans who played in Tokyo will be in action, with the Europeans boasting five 2020 Olympians in their 12-man ranks.

Here's a guide to who else is involved, when and where the Ryder Cup will take place, the history of the tournament, and the format of the Ryder Cup.

2021 Ryder Cup players and storylines to watch

The top seven golfers on the current Official World Golf Ranking, and 14 of the top 16, will be in action at Whistling Straits, including current world number one Jon Rahm of Spain, the Olympic champion Schauffele (5th), and (British) Open champion Collin Morikawa (3rd).

Rahm is looking for redemption after having been forced to miss the Olympic Games tournament with Covid. The 26-year-old Spaniard, who made his Ryder Cup debut in 2018, holds a career 1–2–0 record in Ryder Cup matches.

This will be Schauffele's first Ryder Cup, although the Olympic champion is no stranger to match play team tournaments. He was on the American team in the 2019 Presidents Cup – similar to the Ryder Cup but played against an International team of non-European golfers – and won three of his five matches there.

Morikawa, the 24-year-old world number three who won the 2020 PGA Championship and then the Open earlier this year, is another rookie on the American team. Morikawa was the highest-ranked player in the Olympic field in Tokyo, and made it to a seven-way playoff for bronze before being eliminated on the fourth playoff hole. However, he has struggled with back issues since the Olympic tournament.

Other star names involved include 37-year-old world number two Dustin Johnson, a veteran of four previous Ryder Cups who holds a career 7–9–0 record for the U.S.; four-time major champion Brooks Koepka and three-time major champion Jordan Spieth, the only two Americans with lifetime winning records in the Ryder Cup; Europe's Rory McIlroy, who was also involved in the Olympic bronze-medal playoff and has been to five Ryder Cups; and European veterans Ian Poulter (6 Ryder Cups), Sergio García (9), and Shane Lowry (10). The other 2020 Olympians selected are Justin Thomas (U.S.), Paul Casey (Europe), Tommy Fleetwood (Europe), and Viktor Hovland (Europe).

Koepka and U.S. teammate Bryson DeChambeau have had a long-running feud between themselves, and it will be interesting to see how captain Stricker approaches the issue. Stricker, for his part, told Sports Illustrated last month: "They said it’s not going to be an issue, and I believe them. I trust them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s been put to bed."

DeChambeau also has the added difficulty of preparing for a long drive competition which begins the day after the Ryder Cup, as he aims to set new personal bests for distance off the tee. However, long drive preparation can hamper a golfer's tournament play due to injuries and pains to the hands.

Oh, and given that this year's tournament is in the U.S., expect a boisterous crowd. That should play in the Americans' favour.

Ryder Cup captains Steve Stricker (L) and Pádraig Harrington (R) pose with the trophy in 2019.
Picture by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Ryder Cup 2021 venue: Whistling Straits

Venues in the United States and Europe alternate hosting the Ryder Cup, and after a visit to Le Golf National near Paris last time out in 2018, it's now the turn of Whistling Straits, a links-style course in Kohler, Wisconsin, which last hosted a major when the 2015 PGA Championship came to town.

The Straits Course, a 7390-yard (6757-metre) par-71, is designed to emulate the seaside links often found at British and Irish courses. Whistling Straits is located by Lake Michigan, one of the North American Great Lakes, and that means wind and the elements will come into play, much like you would expect at a course in Britain.

Whistling Straits has hosted the PGA Championship three times – 2004, 2010, and 2015, with Spieth finishing runner-up the last time that major was played on the Peter Dye and Alice Dye-designed course.

How does the Ryder Cup work?

If you're new to golf and the Ryder Cup, you might be wondering how the competition works.

Each team is captained by a senior professional who does not take part in the actual competition, and instead makes the decisions on who gets to play in which match. This year, the U.S. team is captained by former world number two Stricker, while Ireland's Harrington captains Europe.

A total of 12 players make up each team – this year, the U.S. team is made up of the top six ranking points-scorers and six captain's picks, while the European team consists of the top four European Tour points-scorers, the next five based on World Ranking points, and three captain's picks.

Unlike most golf tournaments, the Ryder Cup is a match-play event, meaning instead of each player playing four rounds of 18 holes for a total score, they are matched up head-to-head over 18 holes, with the winner after 18 holes (or fewer, if a match is mathematically decided prior to the 18th) scoring a point. Ties – known as halves in golf – are worth half a point.

On the first two days of competition, eight matches will take place daily: four in foursomes (alternate shot), and four in four-ball. In foursomes, each team is represented by two players, and as the name 'alternate shot' suggests, each player takes every other shot, with team members also alternating tee shots. In fourball, each team is represented by two players, each playing their own round (hence the name 'four-ball'), with the best score from any of the four players winning the hole.

The final day of competition sees 12 singles matches played, for a total of 28 points. That means 14.5 points are needed to win the Ryder Cup, although a 14–14 tie would see defending champions Europe retain the Cup ahead of the next edition in 2023.

Stricker and Harrington, as captains, will have the duty of deciding pairings for the foursome and four-ball rounds, as well as match-ups throughout the three days.

Ryder Cup golf history

The Ryder Cup had its first official contest in 1927, and was originally played between teams of American and British golfers. The first four contests were split evenly 2–2, with each host team winning (the U.S. in 1927 and 1929; Great Britain in 1931 and 1933).

The Great Britain team, which had included Irish and Northern Irish golfers from the 40s and 50s, was renamed "Great Britain and Ireland" in 1973; continental European golfers joined in 1979 when the team became "Europe". From 1935 through 1983, the United States won all but twice – Great Britain won 7.5–4.5 in 1957, while the 1969 Ryder Cup was tied 16–16 and resulted in the U.S. retaining the trophy (Jack Nicklaus famously conceded the last hole to give Europe the tying point).

From the inaugural competition in 1927 through 1983, the United States won 13 Ryder Cups in a row on home soil. However, since then, the U.S. has not won back-to-back home editions at all. Since and including Europe's breakthrough on American soil in 1987, the record at U.S. courses is split 4–4.

Memorable Ryder Cup Matches include 1991 and 1999, which were both played in contentious and heated environments, and 2012, when Europe staged a final-day comeback to overturn a four-point deficit at Medinah just as the U.S. had at Brookline in 1999.

Originally, the competition was held every odd year (with the exception of 1939–1945 due to World War II), but it was switched to even years after the postponement of the 2001 Ryder Cup to 2002 due to the September 11 attacks.

With the delay of the 2020 Ryder Cup to 2021 – although it is keeping its official 2020 Ryder Cup name – the calendar has been reset, and the next Ryder Cup will take place in 2023 at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome, Italy.

2021 Ryder Cup teams

U.S. Team

Non-playing captain: Steve Stricker

Non-playing vice-captains: Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson

Playing squad: Daniel Berger (world number 16), Patrick Cantlay (#4), Bryson DeChambeau (#7), Harris English (#11), Tony Finau (#10), Dustin Johnson (#2), Brooks Koepka (#9), Collin Morikawa (#3), Xander Schauffele (#5), Scottie Scheffler (#21), Jordan Spieth (#14), Justin Thomas (#6)

Team Europe

Non-playing captain: Pádraig Harrington (Ireland)

Non-playing vice-captains: Luke Donald (England), Robert Karlsson (Sweden), Martin Kaymer (Germany), Graeme McDowell (N. Ireland), Henrik Stenson (Sweden)

Playing squad: Paul Casey (England, world number 23), Matthew Fitzpatrick (England, #27), Tommy Fleetwood (England, #36), Sergio García (Spain, #43), Tyrrell Hatton (England, #19), Viktor Hovland (Norway, #13), Shane Lowry (Ireland, #40), Rory McIlroy (N. Ireland, #15), Ian Poulter (England, #49), Jon Rahm (Spain, #1), Lee Westwood (England, #34), Bernd Wiesberger (Austria, #61)

2021 Ryder Cup schedule and where to watch

All times are local Central Daylight Savings Time (CDT, 5 hours behind UTC). Start times are appropriate and may change due to conditions.

Tuesday 21 September–Thursday 23 September
Practice rounds (all day from 9am on Tuesday and Wednesday; 10am–2pm on Thursday)

Thursday 23 September
8:45am–12:30pm
Celebrity matches
4pm–5pm Opening Ceremony

Friday 24 September
Morning foursomes tee off at 7:05am, 7:21am, 7:37am, 7:53am
Afternoon four-ball matches tee off at 12:10pm, 12:26pm, 12:42pm, 12:58pm
Play is expected to conclude around 6:30pm.

Saturday 25 September
Morning foursomes tee off at 7:05am, 7:21am, 7:37am, 7:53am
Afternoon four-ball matches tee off at 12:10pm, 12:26pm, 12:42pm, 12:58pm
Play is expected to conclude around 6:30pm.

Sunday 26 September
The first singles match tees off at 11:04am, with matches teeing off at 11-minute intervals.
The last singles match tees off at 1:05pm.
Play is expected to conclude around 4:55pm.

The Ryder Cup will be televised globally through the competition's broadcast partners, including NBC and GOLF Channel in the United States.

Featured matches will also be shown on the RyderCup.com website and on the tournament's official app.