Solheim Cup contenders out to impress Catriona Matthew in Australian Women’s Open

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Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew will use this week’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open to assess the early-season form of Europe’s top players ahead of the September showdown with the United States at Gleneagles.

Nine of the 12 European players ranked inside the world’s top 100 will play in the LPGA event at The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide, including Georgia Hall, Charley Hull and last week’s Vic Open winner Celine Boutier.

Matthew, who had a disappointing 2018 which saw her world ranking slip to 185, said the two-week LPGA swing in Australia was an ideal opportunity to check in on potential Solheim Cup players.

“It gives you a good indication of how people are starting out the year and we’ll see how they progress from there,” said the North Berwick woman.

“Obviously there’s the five top world rankings and the three from the points list but a lot can happen in six months so there are a lot of players vying for positions.

“Winning the Solheim Cup is the main goal this year and personally for my golf I’ve struggled a bit over the past couple of years and the results haven’t been great, so I’m just wanting to play a bit better this season.”

Matthew finished in a tie for 40th at last week’s Vic Open and is hopeful of playing well at the Australian Open, which was her maiden professional title in 1996.

“It’s always tough at the start of the year but it was nice to play four rounds last week,” she said. “It’s nice to come down here and get the season started – you can practice away at home but until you get out on a golf course in tournament conditions you just never quite know.”

Aberdonian Michele Thomson has set her sights on finishing in the top 20 on the LET money-list this season after a disappointing 2018.

Thomson had a strong 2017, finishing 16th on the European Order of Merit in a season that included a runner-up finish in the Indian Open, but she couldn’t keep the momentum going last season.

The 30-year-old’s immediate goal for 2019 is to make the cut this week in Adelaide for a third successive year and performing well at LET events in Australia and South Africa in the coming weeks.

“Two years ago I made a great start (in Adelaide), shooting five-under in the first round, so I’m first out tomorrow and I’m hoping I can do the same again,” said Thomson.

“I was on a high going into last year but it was a little bit of a struggle and no matter how hard I tried nothing was really firing so hopefully this year results will be a little bit better.

“I’d like to get into the top 20 on the LET and qualify for the British Open. I want to get off to a great start in Australia and South Africa and then we’ll see where we go from there.”

Edinburgh-based American golfer Beth Allen will return to the LET full time this season after two years on the LPGA.

Allen, who won her way into this week’s Australian Open field through a qualifying event on Tuesday, topped the LET Order of Merit in 2016 but struggled in 2017 and 2018 on the LPGA before eventually losing her card last season.

However, she said she had been working with Manchester-based mental coach Karl Morris since September, which was starting to pay off.

“That’s been going well and my putting’s improving, which is what was holding me back in the past 18 months so I feel like things are close to coming together again,” Allen said.

“This is my 11th Australian Open and I’ve only had to qualify for one other one so it’s a bit of a funny week timing wise but luckily I played here (The Grange) in 2016 and I did really well. I’m feeling really good and confident around here so I feel ready.

“The Australian Open is one of my favourite events to play and I’m excited.”

Kylie Henry is also in the field and will be aiming to back up a solid effort to tie for 36th at the Vic Open last week.