Catriona Matthew will have a playing role in this week’s 15th Solheim Cup after all – and the North Berwick woman will have Edinburgh man Michael Paterson caddying for her in Iowa.
The Scottish No.1 came here as one of Annika Sorenstam’s three vice-captains and had been content with that task, especially with her being earmarked for the Europe captaincy at Gleneagles in two years’ time.
But, instead, Matthew will be back on the front line for the ninth time in the contest after stepping in to replace Suzann Pettersen when the Norwegian lost her race against the clock to recover fully from a back injury sustained last weekend.
Matthew admitted she only had herself to blame for not producing good enough performances in the final two counting events – the Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald Links and the Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns – to secure one of Sorenstam’s four wild-cards for a three-day contest starting tomorrow in Des Moines.
But, having brought her clubs with her for next week’s Canadian Open, the 47-year-old had been practising with the rest of the European team earlier in the week and is now relishing the chance to lock horns once again with the Americans.
“I’m disappointed for Suzann because she was all up for playing and it’s so unfortunate for her, but I’m delighted to be playing now,” admitted Matthew, who clinched Europe’s first victory in the event on US soil in Denver four years ago.
“I probably thought this was one of my last chances of getting on the team and obviously I was disappointed when I didn’t. But I’m very excited to be playing now.
“I was delighted when Annika asked me to vice captain. I was kind of looking forward to that role and I was preparing myself for that.
“I heard just before I flew over that Suzann had a sore back, so it’s been a difficult two days. Obviously, I’m gutted for Suzann not to be able to play.
“She’s a great competitor and I feel really sorry for her, but it is a tough week. And, if you’re not 100 per cent, you perhaps can’t give it your all, as you always want to do.
“I think it’s great that Suzann is going to do the vice captaincy and we can switch roles. Hopefully, I can be as good a leader as she’s been all through the years on the course.”
Matthew’s husband, Graeme, is now flying over here, but he will not be on her bag, having taken on that role in this event in the past.
Instead, Matthew has enlisted the services of Paterson, who works for Pettersen, though she had Ken Herring, Marc Warren’s caddie, on duty at Kingsbarns.
“Michael used to caddie for Karrie Webb for a long time and he’s worked with me a couple of times before,” said Matthew.
“You couldn’t bring someone else out at this late stage. He’s seen the course and he’s worked for me before. So we’ve now got two Scots on the team.”
Both Sorenstam and Pettersen are confident that Matthew will prove an able deputy as Europe try to reclaim the trophy after a defeat at St Leon-Rot in Germany two years ago.
“Catriona is a proven Solheim Cup performer who will be able to step right in and play with anybody. She’s ready to go,” said Sorenstam.
And Pettersen added: “Knowing that Beany is 100 per cent and ready to go makes me feel a lot better.”
NUMBERS TO KNOW - CATRIONA MATTHEW
47/11/22 – Catriona Matthew will become the oldest player to compete for Team Europe in Solheim Cup history at 47 years/11 months/22 days, passing Laura Davies (47 years/11 months/18 days). Juli Inkster remains the oldest competitor overall at 51 years/2 months/30 days in 2011.
6 – Matthew is one of six players from Scotland to play in the Solheim Cup – her 2017 stint makes it 22 appearances by the country overall on Team Europe
9 – Matthew’s ninth Solheim Cup appearance ties for the second most of any player in Solheim Cup history, joining Beth Daniel, Juli Inkster and Cristie Kerr
33 – Matthew is tied with Suzann Pettersen for the fourth most matches played in Solheim Cup history at 33
19 – Matthew is also tied with Pettersen for the third most points earned in Solheim Cup history at 19