Just one question. That’s all that was required from Catriona Matthew to get Paul McGinley to give her a three-hour account of his winning formula in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Helped by that, Matthew is hoping to land another team triumph for Europe at the plush Perthshire resort as the home skipper for the Solheim Cup next September.
Asked about McGinley, who earned widespread praise from his players and vice captains for the meticulous preparation that helped set up a 16.5-11.5 victory over Tom Watson’s team, Matthew revealed she had accepted an invitation from the Irishman to meet up.
“I have spoken with him and he was quite interesting in how he put his pairings together, especially for foursomes,” said the North Berwick woman. “He had obviously gone into every tiny detail. That was good. I went to lunch with him and asked one question and he spoke for three hours. It’s great to speak to all these people. I have also spoken to [winning captain] Colin Montgomerie a couple of times and it’s great to get little snippets.”
Speaking as the pair hosted a clinic in Edinburgh recently for Aberdeen Standard Investments, Montgomerie said he thought Matthew was growing into her role. “I don’t think it has really changed me at all. But I am looking forward to it. It’s very different being captain,” added the nine-time Solheim Cup player.
“Different people have told me different things. But you’ve just got to be yourself, really. You can ask past captains lots of different questions but, at the end of the day, you’ve got to be yourself, although you can also take little bits from everyone. You are going to make some mistakes, but you need to try to keep them to a minimum.”
During a visit to this year’s Ryder Cup, Matthew saw how Thomas Bjorn had set up the Le Golf National Course to favour the Europeans and was rewarded for doing so as the home side hammered what, based on world rankings, was the strongest US side to play in the biennial event.
During a visit to Gleneagles in October, Juli Inkster, the US Solheim Cup captain, said she hoped the PGA Centenary Course would be set up in a way that the women’s game could be “showcased” next autumn and, by the sounds of things, Matthew is on the same wavelength as her opposite number.
“There’s a limit to tweaking it,” she said. “There’s not a whole lot you can do because there’s so many of the players play the same tour and play the same courses. Looking at it at the moment, you might think the Americans have a few longer hitters than we might have. But I don’t think you have the huge disparity in women’s golf in length.
“You could alter green speeds. But the players are all so good they can adapt fairly quickly to different courses. Probably every captain does little things, but you are not going to say what they might be.”
During the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane in July, Matthew appointed her compatriot Kathryn Imrie, and Norwegian Suzann Pettersen as vice captains and then, last month, added Laura Davies to her backroom team.
“The reaction’s been great,” she said of the latter’s appointment. “The players think it’s great. A lot of people probably thought she would never do it. But when I asked her I could hardly get the question out when she said ‘yes’. She’s really up for it. I wasn’t nervous about asking her. I thought she would do it. Some were 50/50, but I was pretty sure.”
The countdown is well and truly on for what will be the third Solheim Cup in Scotland, with the ‘Year to Go’ celebrations having included Matthew taking the trophy for a trip round her hometown. “That was different,” she admitted with a smile. “I just had to take the trophy and walk down the high street and have photos taken with a few people who recognised it.
“I walked from the golf club and went into a few shops, including a butcher, newsagent and the chippie. The town was quite busy and, though quite a few people recognised it, I also got a few strange looks.”
One player almost certain to be on Matthew’s team at Gleneagles is Georgia Hall, the Women’s British Open champion. Commenting on her BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award snub last weekend, Matthew said: “It was a real shame. Gary Lineker was right next to her and didn’t say anything to her. If that had been a woman winning Wimbledon it would have been top billing. It’s a shame for golf. Justin Rose didn’t get much either even though he got to world No 1.
“It would have been good for the profile of the women’s game if Georgia was given a bit more air time or was even on the shortlist.”