Catriona Matthew needs her putter to hot up to have a chance of claiming a title hat-trick in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open.
The North Berwick woman was let down on the greens at Dundonald Links as she opened with a two-over-par 74 in the £1.2 million event in Ayrshire.
That left Matthew, the winner at Archerfield Links in 2011 and 2013, nine shots behind Karrie Webb after the Aussie ace rolled back the years to set a blistering pace with a 63.
“I actually hit two bad shots and made bogey from each of them,” said Matthew of her opening effort in the first of two events that will decide her Solheim Cup fate.
The Scottish No.1 is definitely heading to Des Moines next month, having been appointed by Annika Sorenstam as one of her vice captains for the biennial match.
But she would be even happier to be making a ninth playing appearance and is hoping to stake her claim in both this event and also next week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns.
“I played the rest of the holes nicely but just didn’t really hole any putts and 74 obviously isn’t great,” she added.
“I just need to hole a few more putts. In this kind of testing weather, you’re going to make the odd mistake, so you need to make a few birdies.”
Matthew, who made her second one of the day after two-putting from 30 yards at the last, was impressed with the opening efforts of both Webb and 39-year-old Cristie Kerr, who shot a 66 in the tougher morning conditions.
“It was windy all day, so two very good scores,” said the Scot. “It was probably at least three clubs in some spots, so you had to try to keep it under the wind.
“In that kind of weather, you know, it’s tough to get the ball close.”
Webb, winner of 41 LPGA titles, stormed to the top of the leaderboard after coming home in 30 in the slightly easier afternoon conditions.
“After three holes when it was really cold and windy, I saw Cristie’s score and said, ‘what course did she play today?’” admitted Webb afterwards.
“I got really lucky with the weather as there was no rain this afternoon and the wind died down for the last five or six holes.”
Webb, whose last win was more than three years ago, didn’t need to hole anything longer than a 10-footer in that burst on the back nine.
“I’ve played links golf for many years and enjoy it,” said the former world No.1, who was born in Ayr in Queensland.
“My caddie, Johnny Scott, is also Scottish and we worked well together out there today, having played Troon earlier in the week.”
Kerr, who was wearing snazzy ear muffs to combat both the cold and wind, reckoned her flawless morning effort had been among the best she’d ever produced on a links course.
“I controlled my ball really well out there with the crosswinds and trajectory, so I’m very pleased with that score,” admitted the 19-time LPGA winner.
“Today I told my caddie on the back nine that it seems like the tougher the conditions, the more I like it for some reason. It’s never easy, but it allows you to play different shots and be more artistic.
“I like to be challenged mentally and these kind of conditions force you to focus on the shot at hand and not get ahead of yourself, and I did that really well today. What I was seeing and visualising, it was happening.”
Michele Thomson and Kylie Henry shot matching 73s to sit as top Scots on a day when Musselburgh’s Vikki Laing struggled to an 83.