Catriona Matthew on cloud nine after Solheim Cup call-up

She's the Cat-riona with nine Solheim Cup lives. Instead of being one of Annika Sorenstam's vice-captains for the event's 15th staging here in Des Moines, Catriona Matthew will now make her ninth playing appearance against the Americans after swapping roles with Suzann Pettersen.

Catriona Matthew during practice for the Solheim Cup at the Des Moines Country Club Picture: Getty Images
Catriona Matthew during practice for the Solheim Cup at the Des Moines Country Club Picture: Getty Images

The Norwegian has lost a race against time to be fully fit for the three-day contest starting tomorrow in Iowa after hurting her back at the weekend, with Matthew, having been named by Sorenstam as first alternate, coming in as the replacement. The 47-year-old provides exactly the same experience as Pettersen, with the pair having identical records in the event.

Matthew, who was not surprised to miss out on one of Sorenstam’s four wild-card picks after failing to make the cut in the recent Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns, had her clubs with her due to the fact she’s playing in next week’s Canadian Open and had already practised with the rest of the European team earlier in the week when it became apparent that Pettersen might not be able to play.

“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 feared her playing career in the event was over but, nonetheless, had been equally excited about being a vice-captain, especially as it seems likely she will be a strong contender for the captaincy when Gleneagles hosts the match in two years’ time.

“I’d kind of got into the vice-captain role and was enjoying that, learning a lot from Annika, but now I’m switching focus and getting ready to play. Having played in it before the eight times, it’s given me that little bit more experience to deal with the uncertainty of the last few days.”

Matthew had Sorenstam as her foursomes partner when she made her debut in the event in 1998, holed the winning putt at Barseback in Sweden in 2003 before clinching Europe’s first win on US soil in Denver four years ago. Her performances in both the Ladies Scottish Open and aforementioned Women’s British Open may have been disappointing, but there’s no denying that she is well-equipped to play a part in trying to help Europe reclaim the trophy after a defeat at St Leon Rot in Germany two years ago.

“The Sunday night at Kingsbarns felt like the end,” admitted the North Berwick woman, who already knows who she will be playing with but kept that to herself for the time being. “Yeah, I really thought that was my last chance to play in one gone. But [US captain for the second match in a row] Julie Inkster played at 51 so I suppose never say never.”

Both teams have now been forced to make a change from the original 12-strong line-ups announced a week past Sunday, with Paula Creamer already having come into the American side for the injured Jessica Korsa. “It’s unfortunate that Suzann has to withdraw,” said Sorenstam of her enforced shuffle. “It was a very tough decision, but I am proud of her and she will still be a leader this week. Catriona is a proven Solheim Cup performer who will be able to step right in and play with anybody. She’s ready to go.”

Pettersen, of course, was at the centre of the row dubbed “Gimmegate” two years ago, when US rookie Alison Lee scooped up her ball thinking a short putt had been conceded only to be left in tears after Pettersen claimed that hadn’t been the case. The Norwegian spoke at the Scottish Open about how she felt that incident wouldn’t be an issue in Des Moines and that will certainly be the case now.

“Unfortunately I had an incident on Saturday which was not a very pleasant experience,” said Pettersen. “It’s a little bit of an old history with a ruptured disc that flared up, and I’ve tried everything I can to get ready. But I can’t see myself being 100 per cent.”