Matthew determined to lead Europe to first Solheim Cup win since 2013
When it comes to playing in the Solheim Cup, Catriona Matthew has experienced pretty much every emotion possible.
There were the nerves and anticipation of her debut in 1998, when experienced partner Annika Sorenstam handed her rookie team-mate the somewhat dubious honour of hitting the opening shot of their foursomes match on the opening morning, a match they went on to win.
The high of that victory was replaced two days later by the low of losing to Sherri Steinhauer in the decisive singles contest, while Matthew was then overlooked for the next two contests by Europe captain Dale Reid, despite her fellow Scot having five wild cards at her disposal in 2000 and four in 2002.
Those setbacks made Matthew’s second appearance, and first victory, all the sweeter in Sweden in 2003, especially as she secured the winning point at Barseback with a singles victory over Rosie Jones.
In total Matthew has played in the biennial contest nine times and won 22 points, with only her vice-captain Laura Davies (25) and Sorenstam (24) having contributed more to the European cause. In four of her last six appearances, Matthew won 75 per cent of her matches.
However, when it comes to this year’s contest at Gleneagles, even the experienced 50-year-old finds herself in uncharted territory as the woman charged with captaining Europe to a first win since 2013 and a third on Scottish soil.
“Absolutely, definitely that’s our goal,” Matthew said after completing her team by naming Suzann Pettersen, Bronte Law, Celine Boutier and Jodi Ewart Shadoff as her four wild cards. “We don’t want them winning three in a row.
“I’m well aware that there were home victories the last two times it was held in Scotland. Hopefully that’s going to be a lucky omen. No pressure!
“If we win, it will be right up there with my best days in golf, including winning the British Open 10 years ago. It’s a great honour, but there’s definitely going to be extra pressure.”
Matthew’s wild card selections will certainly come under renewed scrutiny if Europe lose, Pettersen being selected despite having played just twice since November 2017 before the wild cards were named, while Ewart Shadoff was also picked even though she underwent a minor back operation the week before the announcement.
Since being selected, Pettersen and Ewart Shadoff finished 59th and 44th respectively in the CP Women’s Open and both missed the cut in the Cambia Portland Classic.
“It’s not a gamble, not at all. I am 100 per cent confident in that pick,” Matthew said of Pettersen, who had initially been named as one of her vice-captains. “She brings that wealth of experience. She is such a strong character.
“As a vice-captain, she would have been great in the team room but as a player, especially for some of the younger players, they really look up to her and respect her. To them, it has been a great boost to see her wanting to come back on the team.
“Jodi played really well at the start of the year and then had issues with her back. She is pain-free now for the first time in a few months and a fit Jodi, over her results in the last two years, is again an easy pick.”
The bookmakers make the United States odds-on favourites but captain Juli Inkster, who leads the side for the third time in a row, had her own tough wild card decisions to make.
Five of the 10 American automatic qualifiers are Solheim Cup rookies, with eight of them having no experience of an away contest.
It was therefore no surprise that Inkster opted for experience in wild cards Morgan Pressel and Stacy Lewis, although both – along with contenders Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer – had missed the cut in the final qualifying event.
The bookmakers are rarely wrong but four of Europe’s five victories have come at home and a repeat of 2014’s Ryder Cup triumph at the same venue cannot be ruled out.