Let's Make It Interesting

Four pools you and your derelict friends can do for the Ryder Cup (and Solheim Cup!)

September 21, 2023

Keyur Khamar

In a different day and age, back when I had my swagger and no children, I was the king of sports pools. Or at least a member of the ruling sports pool aristocracy, along with a few friends. My brain no longer works in this dimension, but luckily, like the ruins of an ancient city, the edifices I built in those days are still standing. And unlike ancient ruins, we can still use these things. (So when they show the heap-of-junk Coliseum next weekend during the Italian Ryder Cup, just remember, old sports pools are more functional. NBC should be showing spreadsheets.)

Which brings me to the Ryder Cup. Aside from March Madness and maybe the Olympics, it might be the single sporting event most conducive to fun pools. Each time it comes around, my worst, most derelict friends and I gather once more to overload ourselves with the four pools listed below. And if you are craving a moment on Saturday afternoon when you shout "hell yes, Sepp Straka's going to win on 16!" just before screaming "*$#%* me, Brian Harman lost the 8th hole!", you may enjoy these too. Feel free to put money on them—we usually do $10 a pop—or not. And hey, if you act really fast, there's no reason you can't do it for the Solheim Cup too!

We'll start with the simplest:

Pool 1: The Auction

This one is very basic, but somehow wildly fun, to the point that almost every year, after completing the auction, my friends and I decide that, hey, you know what would be a good idea? Doing another auction, for another $10!

How it works: You'll need a place to meet, like a Zoom, or at least a chat room (needless to say, this is a lot more fun when you can make fun of people face to face for picking Robert MacIntyre in the first round). After that, each person gets 100 fake dollars to spend (adjust as needed), and we're off to the races with the auction format. We use this site, which comes with a clock you can customize and which randomizes the player order. The beauty of this pool is that you can load up on cheap players, spend all 100 on Justin Thomas, or walk some middle line. I'm a classic "hoard my money until the end and stock up" guy, which almost never works for the actual pool but is 100% effective at pissing everyone else off. It feels like such a coup to buy Nicolai Hojgaard for 2 fake dollars, at least until he goes 0-1-0. When all 24 players are bought, it's a matter of which team earns the most points over the Cup. This couldn't be easier! It's practically remedial!

Special note: Since there are only 24 players on each team, you really don't want to have more than six people doing this thing. In fact, six is the perfect number—each team has four guys. And if you leave someone out, like I said, just do a second auction.

Pool 2: Survivor

Also pretty simple!

How it works: You pick one golfer per session, and this golfer must win or half his match for you to advance to the next session. For Sunday singles, we divide the lineup into top half and bottom half to create an artificial extra session. If multiple people survive all six sessions, which is way harder than you think, it's a split pot.

Special note: The quirk here is that you have to make picks before each session, and that's not always easy, particularly for us Americans when they insult our freedom by holding the Ryder Cup in Foreign Europe. The way around this is that picks can be made in advance, and because we don't know the lineups ahead of time, players should be allowed to make multiple picks, ranked, until one is active. So if you plan to sleep in on Friday morning or go to Bed, Bath & Beyond with your spouse, you might submit something like "Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Ludvig Aberg, Tommy Fleetwood," and the first one eligible is your pick.

Pool 3: Poulter-geist

This is where we start to get a little insane. If you're a pool simpleton, leave now, enjoy your auction and survivor, and do not plunge further into the darkness ahead. Here lies madness.

How it works: Before any lineups are set (i.e., before next Thursday's first lineup exchange), you will pick five players—one for each session, no repeats, labeled by session. Points are gained or lost by how that player performs in his session, based on the hole where the match concludes. If the player wins on the 16th hole, that's +3 points. Lose on the 18th? That's -1. Halves his match? Zero points. And if the player picked does not actually play in the session in which he's picked, that's a -3 penalty. By Sunday's conclusion, the player with the most points wins.

Oh you thought that was all?

How. CUTE. Buckle up:

— Any golfer not selected by a single entrant becomes a demon spirit known as a "Poulter-geist." If one of these Poulter-geists beats your golfer in the session you chose, you are eliminated from the entire pool.

— The two most-picked golfers fall under the "Gardner Dickinson Curse" (holder of the all-time best Ryder Cup record among players with ten matches played), wherein his losing points are doubled and his winning points are cut in half.

Pool 4: The Pod Pool

This is the grandaddy of them all. It is the best Ryder Cup pool that's ever existed, and nobody can convince me otherwise. But you have to have several screws loose to actually do it.

How it works: Your job is to pick a team of six players, with one from each of six pre-established pods that range from "top dogs" to "I didn't actually realize these guys were still playing golf." Here's an example of this year's pods based on Vegas odds for points leaders, which you can feel free to adjust as you see fit:

Pod 1 - Scheffler, Rory, Rahm, Hovland
Pod 2 - Cantlay, Xander, Koepka, Fleetwood
Pod 3 - Morikawa, Hatton, Homa, Fitzy
Pod 4 - Spieth, JT, Rickie, Ludvig
Pod 5 - Rose, Burns, Clark, Lowry
Pod 6 - Hojgaard, Straka, Harman, Bobby Mac

The scoring is where this really gets nuts. Buckle up:

+ Halved match: 1 point
+ Win match on 18th hole: 3 points
+ Win match on 17th hole: 5 points
+ Win match on 16th hole: 7 points
+ Win match on 15th hole: 9 points

GLORIOUS ANNIHILATION WIN on 14th hole or earlier: 15 points

+ Lose match on 18th hole: -3 points
+ Lose match on 17th hole: -5 points
+ Lose match on 16th hole: -7 points
+ Lose match on 15th hole: -9 points

EVERLASTING SHAME LOSS on 14th hole or earlier: -15 points


BOOSTING: You have the right to boost three players, multiplying their point totals.

— You may use a DOUBLE on any player you pick from Pod 1 or Pod 2. This will double that player's total points.

— You may use a TRIPLE on any player you pick from Pod 3 or Pod 4. This will triple that player's total points.

— You may use a QUAD on any player you pick from Pod 5 or Pod 6. This will quadruple that player's total points.

However, the double/triple/quad boosts also count for negative points. Use your quad on Lowry, and he finishes with -5 points? That's -20 for you. There's risk involved, which is why you don't have to use all, or any, of the boosts. Use only the ones you want.

If you have two players on a team for a pairs match, they will BOTH earn points, either positive or negative. If you have two players opposing each other, they will cancel each other out. Will you load up on one team and risk the double-loss, or go for variety and hope your players don't face each other, then cursing loudly when they do every single time? WHAT A CONUNDRUM! In the unlikely event of a WD or DQ, a victory will be worth 15 points, and a loss will be -15.


If you end up doing any of these pools, let me know on Twitter. If you do all four, I'll grant you special hero status and broadcast your exploits to the world. Have fun, derelicts.