Catriona Matthew set for watching brief as major season gets underway

Catriona Matthew may be missing out on the 50th anniversary of the event now known as the ANA Inspiration but the Scot will still be keeping tabs on the season’s first major over the next four days.

Catriona Matthew in action during the 2015 ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. Picture: Robert Laberge/Getty Images.

Matthew first played in what was formerly called the Dinah Shore Tournament in 1998, finished second in 2007 and recorded a total of five top-10 finishes at Mission Hills Country Club, which is located at Rancho Mirage in California.

Taking all of that into account, it would have been fitting for the North Berwick woman to be part of this week’s milestone event, but, having slipped outside the top 400 in the world rankings, she is having to be content with a watching brief.

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Wearing her European captain’s hat, Matthew will be keen to some of the contenders for her Solheim Cup team later in the year get in the mix as the battle for those spots at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio, in September starts in earnest.

The European team set to defend the trophy after a dramatic victory at Gleneagles last time out will consist of six automatic qualifiers - two from a European points list and four from the world rankings.

At the moment, those spots are being occupied by Emily Kristine Pedersen and Julie Engstrom from the European list and Carlota Ciganda, Sophia Popov, Charley Hull and Mel Reid from the Rolex rankings.

Matthew will then make six captain’s picks after the completion of the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie in August, with Georgia Hall, winner of that event in 2018, among the players currently relying on one of those berths.

She’ll be looking to shine this week, as will Ireland’s Leona Maguire, who received a text from Matthew congratulating her after securing a first top-10 finish on US soil on the LPGA earlier in the year.

The top 15 in the world rankings head the field, but, with Gemma Dryburgh also missing out, there are no Scots among the 119 hopefuls competing for a $3.1 million purse and the opportunity to raise the Dinah Shore Trophy and make the famed jump into Poppie’s Pond.

“I've always said, it's kind of like the Masters for us in women's golf,” said Nelly Korda, who lost in a play-off in the 2020 edition.

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