Ryder Cup condensed to four sessions

Updated: October 1, 2010, 4:10 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

NEWPORT, Wales -- The Ryder Cup is changing its schedule to deal with significant weather issues that threaten to push the completion of the 28-match competition beyond Sunday.

After consulting with European captain Colin Montgomerie and United States captain Corey Pavin, Ryder Cup officials said they are essentially cramming the 28 matches into four sessions, as opposed to five.

First, the fourball matches that were interrupted for more than seven hours Friday will be completed Saturday morning.

Following that, instead of four foursomes matches, there will be six.

Once that is completed, a third session will consist of two foursomes matches and four fourball matches.

Then there will be 12 singles matches, with the hope of having them go off Sunday.

Play will begin at 8 a.m. local time both Saturday and Sunday (3 a.m. ET). ESPN will televise Saturday's matches from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET, with NBC picking up coverage from there. NBC will television Sunday's play beginning at 4 a.m. ET.

"We felt we must do everything we can to finish the Ryder Cup by Sunday on the chosen day while maintaining the integrity of the match," George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, said at a news conference that also was attended by PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka.

"We're still playing for 28 points ... this all depends on the sky and whether the rain comes back again. We don't have a good forecast for Sunday. But we will be keeping singles sacrosanct, whatever happens."

Friday's delay was the first at the Ryder Cup since 1997 at Valderrama, but in 37 previous matches, the competition has never gone to a fourth day.

That appears to be a strong possibility, given Sunday's forecast. "It has been difficult," O'Grady said.

Should the Ryder Cup go to Monday, there is a stipulation in the captain's agreement that does not allow any match to go past 6:43 p.m. local time, or sundown. Any match not completed at that point would be deemed a half.

The Ryder Cup has never had a Monday finish.

All of this means that the speculation surrounding whether players such as Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood would play in all of the sessions is moot.

Those who were out Friday will end up competing in all four sessions. The players who sat will play in three.

"I think it's great," said Phil Mickelson, who was in the lead match with Dustin Johnson and trails Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer 1 down through 12 holes. "I've always felt when you've got the 12 best players in Europe and the 12 best in the United States and you have to sit 4, it's hard.

"Both teams are strong in their depth and I think it's a great move."

When play was suspended due to darkness Friday, the U.S. had the lead in two of the four matches: Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar were 2 up on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell through 11 holes; and Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton were 1 up through eight over Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.

Woods and Steve Stricker were tied with Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher through 10.

"It's going to be long day with so many players out there," McIlroy said. "Stamina will be important because the ground is so heavy."

Cink was focused on getting through Saturday.

"I just hope that every group knows what format they have to play, otherwise it could get into a mess," Cink said.

"The whole object is to try and get it in Sunday night if we can," Pavin said. "We still have all the matches being played and 28 points out there. It's a great solution. It does change things, but we'll have a talk about it and figure things out."

Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com