Captain Catriona Matthew is “100 per cent confident” that she has made the right decision to hand one of her four Solheim Cup wildcards to Suzann Pettersen despite the Norwegian having played only twice in 21 months.
The 38-year-old will make her ninth appearance in the event at Gleneagles next month after being picked by Matthew, below, along with English pair Bronte Law and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, as well as Celine Boutier from France.
Having taken the whole of last season off to coincide with becoming a mum, two-time major winner Pettersen hadn’t played since the LPGA Tour Championship in November 2017 before partnering Matthew in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, a two-player team event on the LPGA, last month.
She missed the cut in that and also made an early exit in last week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open despite being among the players to benefit from better weather, especially in the second round.
“It’s not a gamble, not at all,” insisted Matthew, speaking at Gleneagles, after adding her final bits to the jigsaw for the 13-15 September match at the Perthshire venue. “I am 100 per cent confident in that pick.
“Suzann brings variations in partnerships, she can play either format. That experience, knowing she can step up in the heat of the moment, means I can rely on her. I played with her in the Dow Invitational and was super-impressed. The moment I saw her she was looking strong, looking confident, hitting the ball great.
“I know myself, coming back from having a baby, it was more perhaps self-doubt on her part about whether she would be able to come back and really have that desire and will to compete. But you could see after two rounds the way she was talking, she had had that bug right back and she was wanting to play golf and wanting to be in that team. There’s no question she’s playing well, so for me it was an easy pick.”
In preparation for the match against Juli Inkster’s US team, Pettersen will play in both the CP Women’s Open in Canada and the Cambia Portland
Classic next week and the week after on the LPGA.
“No,” replied Matthew, who is bidding to stop a run of two successive American victories, to being asked if she was concerned about Pettersen’s lack of competitive action. “This is her ninth Solheim Cup now, she knows what to expect. She is such a strong character. As a vice-captain, she would have been great in the team room. But, as a player, out there on the course… especially for some of the younger players, they really look up to her and respect her. To them, it has been a great boost to see her wanting to come back on the team.”
Matthew is also confident that Ewart Shadoff will be fully fit despite the 31-year-old having recently undergone a “minor procedure” after being troubled with a back injury this season. “A fit Jodi Ewart, over her results in the last two years, is again an easy pick,” said the skipper, who has filled Pettersen’s vice-captain’s spot by drafting in Mel Reid. “She is pain-free now for the first time in a few months, back hitting shots and 100 per cent confident that she is going to be ready.”