Scotland's Catriona Matthew Ready to Lead Europe on Home Soil
EUROPE go into the Solheim Cup with a captain who knows all about the pressures involved. Catriona Matthew, who leads Europe into battle at Gleneagles, played in the contest nine times - only Laura Davies has played more, and she will be at Matthew’s side as vice-captain in Scotland.
Her record is a formidable one. Only Davies and Annika Sorenstam have won more points. At 46, she was the oldest player in Germany in 2015 but she won three points out of four. She was also the oldest in Des Moines in 2017 and, although Europe were soundly beaten, Matthew once again contributed three points out of a possible four. Since her debut at Muirfield Village, Ohio, in 1998, she's scored 22 points.
She admits that her biggest disappointment is that there are no Scots in her team. In fact, she remains the highest-ranked Scot in the world rankings. "It's pretty disappointing," she says. "I don't know how long I've been the highest-ranked Scot, but it's been a while. A few have come and gone but none have made it to the next level. To get to the top in anything it's not just about pure talent. It's that hidden thing nobody can quite put their finger on. I mean, you could walk down the range at a tournament nowadays and everybody hits it great, but it's that inner belief, that inner desire that gets you there. You have to have that killer instinct inside you.
"I always think that if you can get a crop of two or three or four who'll push each other on then you're going places. I had that when I first came out on tour. That kind of friendly rivalry is great. We're getting it with the boys with Bob MacIntyre and Connor Syme. A few more are coming up. The results are definitely encouraging on the men's side and we need that with the girls as well."
That is certainly true of the crop of young English golfers, such as Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Bronte Law and Jodie Ewart Shadoff - if they click at Gleneagles, Europe will take some beating. Matthew will certainly be hoping that the four Englishwomen arrive with their A-game, and she will be looking to Hull in particular to inspire her team.
Matthew clearly remembers her very first shot. "In my first match, foursomes in 1998, I had Annika as a partner. She told me I had to hit the first shot. People ask me, 'Why didn't she hit it given all her experience?' I say, 'That was her using all her experience!' The first shot, it's hard to describe what that feels like. You can't really prepare a player for it. You just have to go through it. I remember hitting the fairway. I made contact. I was happy with that."Playing in nine of them, I suppose it shows how good I've managed to be for that long, I've always loved the Solheim Cup, I've always loved the team element. You really do make great friendships with people you might meet week-to-week but you don't really get to know them until you're suddenly thrown together in a Solheim Cup. Then you become a team and it's very special.”
Europe lost that Solheim Cup encounter in Ohio, and Matthew missed the next two matches when fellow Scot Dale Reid didn't pick her. It made her return to the team, and first victory, all the sweeter in 2003 at Barseback in Sweden. Matthew secured the winning point in a singles match against Rosie Jones.
"It was my greatest high in the Solheim Cup. I think that was probably one of the first times where we got really huge crowds. I remember the whole team running down the fairway following our match. I'm usually pretty hopeless at remembering shots, but I do remember that hole, the 17th, a par four, tree-lined, back down towards the water. I hit a great drive and then an eight iron to 15 feet. I can still see that shot. Rosie missed the green and then conceded the putt and I won and that was the point that secured the Solheim Cup.
"Sophie Gustafson rushed on and nearly knocked me over. I've been on both sides of it. I've gone from everyone running to hug you to everyone just standing there with glum faces, but that's golf. You soon get over it."
Matthew concedes that on the world rankings, Europe are the underdogs at Gleneagles. That's all she's conceding, though. "There's a lot to be done before the golf starts. A lot of speeches. I'm not the greatest speechmaker. I can think of great speeches while I'm lying there trying to get to sleep but doing it in front of a huge audience is a bit different. We just can't wait for the golf to start. We have a fantastic team and we're all really up for it."
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