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The Ryder Cup is a golf trophy, donated by Samuel Ryder, which is awarded biennially in an event called the "Ryder Cup Matches" between teams from Europe and the United States. The competition is jointly administered by the PGA of America and the PGA European Tour, and is contested every two years, the venue alternating between courses in the United States and Europe.

The competition began following an exhibition match in 1926 between a team comprising American professionals against a similar one drawn from the British PGA on the East Course, Wentworth Club, Virginia Water, Surrey, UK. The first competition took place in 1927.

Early matches between the two sides were fairly even, but after the Second World War, repeated US dominance led to a decision to extend the representation of the British & Irish team to include continental Europe in 1979. This change was partly prompted by the success of a new generation of Spanish golfers of the time, including Seve Ballesteros. He and Antonio Garrido became the first Spaniards to play in the event in 1979. Since then, Team Europe has included players from Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden.

Following this change the event has enjoyed more competitive matches, with Europe winning seven times and retaining the Cup once, with seven American wins over this period.

The Ryder Cup Matches involve various match play competitions between players selected from two teams of twelve. Currently, the matches consist of eight foursomes matches, eight fourball matches and 12 singles matches. The winner of each match scores a point for their team, with a point each for any match that is tied after 18 holes.

A foursomes match is a competition between two teams of two golfers. The golfers on the same team take alternate shots throughout the match, with the same ball. Each hole is won by the team that completes the hole in the fewest shots. A fourball match is also a competition between two teams of two golfers, but all four golfers play their own ball throughout the round rather than alternating shots, and each hole is won by the team whose individual golfer has the lowest score. A singles match is a standard match play competition between two golfers.

The matches take place over three days, Friday through Sunday, a total of 28 matches. On Friday, there are four fourball matches in the morning (or afternoon) and four foursomes matches in the morning (or afternoon). On Saturday, the same schedule repeats. On Sunday, there are 12 singles matches, when all team members play. Not all players must play on Friday and Saturday; the captain can select any eight players for each of the four rounds of play over these two days. The winning team is determined by cumulative total points. Under Ryder Cup rules, the defending champion team from the previous matches only needs to halve the cumulative point totals (14) to retain the Cup, while the opposing team must win it outright (14 or more).

The format has changed over the years. From the inaugural event through 1959, the Ryder Cup was a two-day competition, with four 36-hole foursomes matches on the first day and eight 36-hole singles matches on the second day, for a total of 12 points. In 1961, the matches were changed to 18 holes each, but the number of matches was doubled, resulting in a total of 24 points. In 1963, the event was expanded to three days, with eight fourball matches being added on the middle day to make a total of 32 points. This format remained until 1977, when the number of matches was reduced to 20: five foursomes matches on the first day, five fourball matches on the second day, and ten singles matches on the final day. In 1979, the first year continental European players participated, the format was changed to the 28-match version in use today, with eight foursomes/four-ball matches on the first two days and 12 singles matches on the last day.