CATRIONA Matthew, the star attraction in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open starting today, believes that bad manners have been added to golf’s perennial slow-play problem.
In the recent Solheim Cup in Denver, where Matthew clinched Europe’s first win in the biennial event on US soil, American Michelle Wie found herself obliged to issue an apology for a display of poor etiquette when running off the green to the next tee in celebration of a birdie with her opponents left to putt.
Keen to see next year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles played in a sporting manner, European captain Paul McGinley noticed the incident in the women’s equivalent and said he won’t tolerate such behaviour from his players in Perthshire.
“I couldn’t believe the way the Americans were walking to the next tee before their opponents had finished putting. They even went on doing it after they had been lambasted for doing it over the first couple of days,” said the Irishman in an interview with Global Golf Post.
“I’d be very disappointed if any of my team were to behave like that at Gleneagles. It’s totally out of order and also counterproductive. You don’t want to give your opponent any kind of ammunition.”
Bidding to win her home Open for the second time in three years at Archerfield Links, Matthew, whose sporting integrity is second to none, acknowledged instances of bad manners had started to surface but quickly dismissed the suggestion that it is down to players trying to improve the pace of play.
“I didn’t see the Michelle Wie incident, but I heard about it. Obviously it’s not great, but she said she got caught up in the moment,” said the world No 10, who celebrated her 44th birthday on Sunday by playing in the final round of the Canadian Women’s Open in Edmonton then catching a flight home.
“All the games I played in were played in good spirit, but when I first started, you would wait on the green until your playing partners had putted. Yet, not just in the Solheim Cup but generally on Tour, you now see players walking to the next tee.
“That even happens in stroke-play events, which I find a bit odd, but it’s just one of these habits that have crept in. Is it a case of trying to speed up play? I don’t really know if people are hurrying up that much.”
Few of Matthew’s history-making team-mates in Colorado appear to be in a hurry to return from America. Indeed, the North Berwick woman, a ten-shot winner over the Fidra Links two years ago, is the only one of the 12 in the field.
“To be honest, I don’t think there was any likelihood of any of the other Solheim Cup players coming here,” confessed Matthew. “It was always one that I was going to play in due to Aberdeen Asset Management being one of my sponsors and also living so close to here.
“It is a big event on the LPGA Tour in Portland this week [the $1.3 million Safeway Classic in Oregon] and, unfortunately, a lot of the time it comes down to the size of the purse.”
Which, on the back of Europe’s stunning 18-10 success in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, is one of the challenges for Ivan Khodabakhsh, the former chief executive of World Series Boxing now heading the Ladies European Tour,
“I don’t know the new chief executive particularly well but, hopefully, he can build on the victory, either by getting a few more tournaments or upping the prize fund.
“Bigger prize funds are going to attract better fields,” remarked Matthew, by far the highest-ranked player competing for a prize fund of around £190,000 over the next three days.
While not exactly renowned for being a party animal, the long-time Scottish No 1 joined her team-mates in enjoying a celebratory slug of champagne from the Solheim Cup on the Sunday night. There was no birthday bubbly on that flight home from Canada, though.
“I had a celebratory sleeping pill to knock me out!” she said, laughing, but is confident she can overcome both jet-lag and fatigue to make her presence felt once again in her native East Lothian.