AIG Women's Open: Catriona Matthew tips Nelly Korda for dominance
Scottish golf fans will need to watch Nelly Korda’s golf before hearing her talk about it. While not exactly a crime, the world No 1 and Olympic gold medallist declined an opportunity to be on the pre-event interview list for the AIG Women’s Open, which starts at Carnoustie on Thursday.
Apparently, the 23-year-old is set to conduct post-round chats during the season’s final major, but, in the build up to her eagerly-anticipated appearance in Angus this week, it’s been left to other people to do the talking about her.
Korda has won three times on the LPGA Tour this season, most recently landing a maiden major victory in the Women’s PGA Championship in Atlanta. She then racked up a fourth triumph in the Olympics in Japan earlier this month.
On the back of all that, Korda is the centre of attention on Scottish soil, with some people in the sport believing she is set to become a dominant force in the women’s game like Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and Inbee Park all were in the past.
“Yeah, she's obviously been very impressive the last few months,” said Catriona Matthew, the 2009 Women’s Open champion and Europe’s current Solheim Cup captain in reply to being asked about Korda as she kindly fulfilled some media duties at Carnoustie.
“I think without a doubt, she's got that potential to be dominant. You know, she hits it long. Well, to be world No. 1 you have to do everything well. If she can keep that form going, I don't see why she couldn't be dominant
“I think it is good for women's golf to have a dominant player. You saw how Tiger [Woods] elevated the PGA Tour. If you have someone that becomes dominant, she starts to be known by non-golfers, which then maybe encourages them to come and watch golf. So yeah, I think it would be a good thing.”
Both Korda twins - Nelly and Jessica - are to be on the US team for next month’s Solheim Cup at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio, having already faced a European side with Matthew at the helm at Gleneagles in 2019.
“I think it's great,” said Matthew in reply to being asked if she had mixed feelings about the world’s best player being on the opposing ranks when Europe bid to hang on to the trophy.
“For the Solheim to have the world No 1 player, it's a great thing and, in match play, as we've seen in a lot of 18-hole events, anyone can beat anyone. Certainly all the pressure will be on her to beat our team.”
This week’s event marks the end of the qualifying race for both teams, with Matthew and her opposite number, Pat Hurst, announcing their completed line ups for the 17th edition of the biennial bout on Monday.
“Yeah, it's quite nice to get on the golf course and I can hopefully try and forget about it a little bit,” admitted Matthew, who has six picks - two more than last time around - to make on this occasion, of being among five Scots in action at Carnoustie.
“Obviously it's on my mind and you're looking at players stats and how they have been doing. Obviously I have a few players I have my eye on this week and it's going to be an interesting week and, to be honest, I'll be quite glad when it's all over and I can concentrate on the Solheim.
“It's always difficult making the picks, and you know there's going to be a few disappointed people on Sunday. That is the hardest bit, and I'll be quite relieved when that's over.
“Apart from that, I think the team is shaping up really well actually. We'll probably have a few new faces on the side, but a lot of players are playing well and I'm confident. I think we're going to have a great team.”
Out of the players in the 144-strong field this week, Matthew has almost certainly played it more than anyone. “I remember I played Scottish Women's Amateur here, must have been maybe the early 90s,” she recalled,
“I remember the weather was awful. I think the first qualifying round I shot 79 and was the only person to break 80. That first week in May was usually pretty bad weather.”
The sun has had its hat on so far this week and, led by Craig Boath, the Carnoustie greenkeeping team along with a small band of helpers has it looking absolutely tremendous for its latest spell in the spotlight, having hosted The Open as recently as three years ago and this event in 2011.
“I think the main buzz this week is just how good the golf course is,” said Matthew, who has Monifieth’s Kathryn Imrie, one of her Solheim Cup assistants, on the bag this week. “I think it's in fantastic shape this year.
“You know, the rough's thick but playable. It's the kind of rough which is perfect because you can get flyers, it's unpredictable but you can still have a chance at the green.
“Like most links courses, keeping out of the bunkers off the tee will be crucial. Also see what the wind does, and I think it's to be completely opposite the four rounds of the tournament.
“Even without the wind, it's a tricky test with positioning your tee shots and getting it on the greens. But, when that wind picks up, it's going to be a tough test.”
Lightly-raced these days, Matthew finished joint-fourth behind Annika Sorenstam in the US Senior Women’s Open in Connecticut, before ending up just outside the top 10 in an Aramco Series event at Sotogrande.
“It was nice to get under that pressure again and have the nerves jangling again,” she said of her US Senior’s Women Open effort. “Obviously this is playing longer, but, on links courses, you get that run.”
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