Catriona Matthew inspired by Evian’s major status

IT HAS been a good few weeks for Catriona Matthew. She helped Europe win the Solheim Cup in Colorado, won the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies’ Scottish Open for a second time at Archerfield and managed to spend some quality time at home at North Berwick with daughters Katie and Sophie.

Catriona Matthew in practice ahead of the Evian Championship. Picture: Getty
Catriona Matthew in practice ahead of the Evian Championship. Picture: Getty

But she and husband Graeme are back at work this week at the fifth, final and newest major of the women’s season, the Evian Championship in France.

This is the 20th staging of a women’s event at Evian, but the elevated status, not to mention the £1.95 million prize purse, has given it even stronger appeal and Matthew has a proud record to maintain.

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Not so much at Evian – she would be the first to admit that she has never really performed well here in her 15 or so attempts – but a record of finishing in the top 15 in all four majors in 2013

Her closest attempt to set another alongside the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open, came at the LPGA Championship in New York state when she lost in a play-off to the dominant world no1 Inbee Park.

In a week when she has risen to a career high of No 7 in the world, confirmation of Matthew’s standing in the game is the fact she is in a group today with Park and another recent world no1, Yani Tseng, who successfully defended the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie two years ago.

With the course having undergone a massive revamp since Park won the 2012 Evian Masters – it has now changed to the Evian Championship – Matthew is hoping she is ready for her best week on the picturesque course overlooking Lake Geneva.

“They have always made little tweaks here and there over the years,” said the 44-year-old. “But this time there have been major changes. It’s very wet and playing very long after recent rain and it will be interesting to see how the scoring goes.”

Matthew had a tweak of an unwanted sort when she hurt her arm in the build-up to the event, but she dismissed any scare. “It’s fine,” she insisted. “No problem at all.”

As the joint second richest tournament in women’s golf, sitting alongside the US Women’s Open and with a first prize of £315,000, it is disappointing that Matthew is the only Scot in the 120-strong field. Even Carly Booth, a two-time winner on the Ladies’ European Tour last season, couldn’t earn a spot.

But all 24 Solheim Cup players are on show, and the 12 victorious Europeans are hoping that the momentum carries on and on. Well, at least until Sunday.

Park has been on a roll all year, winning the first three majors before finally succumbing to the pressure of it all at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at St Andrews, a championship won in some style by one of the American Solheim “losers” in Stacy Lewis.

A win this week would still make 25-year-old Park the first golfer to win four majors in one season, but she admits that the stress of trying to set a record is nothing compared to what she endured at the home of golf.

“I think the pressure I felt at St Andrews will help me this week,” she said. “I feel much more comfortable this week and I want to win. Getting four out of five majors this year would be an amazing thing to achieve.”

Having won the US Women’s Open as a teenager in 2008, it was four years before she enjoyed that victory feeling again, at Evian just 14 months ago. Sparked into life, she has since won another seven times.

“Winning Evian last July gave me a lot of confidence,” she reflected. “Between the first two wins there were times when I thought I might never do it again. Sometimes I wanted to give up and do something a little less stressful.

“But I stayed patient, kept my belief and waited for my time to come. Evian gave me hope, made me confident that I could go on and do what I’ve done this year.”

No matter what happens this week, Matthew has also had a superb season. With one daughter at school and the other at nursery, juggling a professional lifestyle that involves worldwide travel and high levels of tension is some accomplishment. But she just seems to get better and better.