Ryder Cup format
ESPN Golf Online

The Ryder Cup competition began in 1927 when Samuel Ryder, a wealthy British seed merchant, offered to donate a solid gold trophy bearing his name to the winning team of professionals from either the United States or Great Britain-Ireland.

The competition has been held every two years since, although no competition was held during World War II. The United States leads the competition 23-7-2.

The format has changed over the years, but it has always involved match play. The number of team matches and singles matches has varied over the years, and in 1979 eligibility was expanded to include all European nations.

Through 1983, the United States dominated the competition, winning all but three matches -- including 13 straight. That all changed in 1985, when the Europeans took the Cup from the United States at The Belfry Club in England, then retained it two years later by winning on American soil for the first time at Muirfield Village.

The Europeans kept the Cup again in 1989 with a 14-14 tie before the United States followed with two victories. Europe took the Cup back in 1995 at Oak Hill, then retained it at Valderrama in 1997.

A total of 28 points are at stake over the three days. The United States team must get 14½ points to win back the Cup. In the event of a 14-14 tie, the Europeans will retain the Cup.

All matches are match play and not stroke play. A match ends when a side's lead exceeds the number of holes left to play. Unlike stroke play, a stroke may be conceded to an opponent. All matches are 18 holes or less. All matches are worth one point, and in the event of a halved match each side gets one-half point.

The event will be played over three days. On Friday and Saturday, there will be four foursome matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon. Sunday's competition will feature 12 singles matches.

Each team has 12 members, but only eight play in the foursome and four-ball matches. Team captains Ben Crenshaw and Mark James will select who plays, who the partners are and in what order they play. This is all done without knowing who the other team is selecting.

Also known as alternate shot, each two-man team plays only one ball, and the two team members alternate hitting. Players must alternate driving -- one on the odd holes the other on the even holes -- no matter who putted out last on the previous hole.

Four ball
Also known as better ball, each member of the two-man team plays his own ball and the better score of the two is recorded on each hole. This format encourages players to hit bold, gambling shots when their partner is in a safe position. Whichever team is farthest from the hole can decide which team member may hit first.

Head-to-head match play between two players.

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