NEWPORT, Wales - With runs of birdies, the four-ball format often produces the most exciting sessions in the Ryder Cup, which could again be the case when the 38th Ryder Cup begins Friday morning. Four-balls, though, is a relative newcomer to the biennial competition.
From 1927-1961, the Ryder Cup consisted of foursomes and singles matches. Four-ball play was added in 1963, the year of a resounding United States victory over Great Britain at East Lake CC in Atlanta. Americans Billy Maxwell and Bob Goalby had the honor of playing in the first four-ball match, defeating Dave Thomas and Harry Weetman, 4-and-3.
The U.S. has an overall lead in the four-ball format, 95.5-85.5 points. Since 1985, however, in an era in which Europe has won seven of 12 Ryder Cups (and retained the cup with a tie in 1989), it has a 57.5-38.5 four-balls advantage, sweeping a four-balls session in 1987 and 1989.
-- *Bill Fields *