The cynics who expected Catriona Matthew’s Solheim Cup captaincy to be predictable could be in for a surprise. This week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club is the last throw of the dice in the quest for both automatic spots and wildcards for next month’s match at Gleneagles, with Suzann Pettersen appearing to be among the players on the European captain’s radar on the East Lothian coast.
However, factor in the two-time major winner playing her first individual event this week since the LPGA Tour Championship in November 2017 – she took the whole of last season off to coincide with becoming a mum – and you might understand why Matthew caused quite a stir after refusing to rule out the possibility of Pettersen swapping her intended role as one of the Scot’s vice-captains in Perthshire for a playing one. That, of course, would be ironic given that Matthew made exactly the same switch for the match in Des Moines two years ago due to Pettersen being injured but, faced with the likelihood of trying to end a run of two straight defeats for Europe, the North Berwick woman is looking at all her options.
Matthew partnered Pettersen in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, a two-player team event on the LPGA, last month. Asked yesterday if the former world No 2 felt a win on Scotland’s Golf Coast could put Pettersen in contention, Matthew replied: “I suppose you need to ask Suzann that. But it’s great to see her playing.
“I played with her and she was impressive and looked like she had not been away. She was perhaps a little unsure of how she might play with being out of the game for probably the year and a half she was. I think just from talking to her, she’s kind of got that bug back in her system and is keen to start playing again.
“I think at this stage, you know, everyone’s being considered. I think a lot will depend on the blend of the team. We’ve got a few rookies in there perhaps potentially, so I’m looking at perhaps whether you want foursomes, fourball, adaptable players who can play both formats.”
Spain’s Carlota Ciganda is the only player to have locked down a spot in the home team, with the other automatic berths currently occupied by English pair Charley Hull and Georgia Hall, Swedish duo Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist, Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands, Germany’s Caroline Masson and another Spaniard, Azahara Munoz.
After finishing sixth in the AIG Women’s British Open at Woburn on Sunday, France’s Celine Boutier is just 0.01 point behind Nordqvist, who would surely be guaranteed a pick if she needed one, something that England’s Bronte Law definitely does due to the fact she isn’t eligible for automatic qualification and seems a certainty to be on that list on Monday.
Others still in the mix include three other English players, Mel Reid, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Meghan MacLaren, as well as Germany’s Esther Henseleit, Marianne Skarpnord (Norway) and Pernilla Lindberg (Sweden), meaning it’s not just a $225,000 first prize that is being dangled as carrot in this third event under a co-sanctioning between the LET and LPGA.
“I would say probably the last couple of spots are up for grabs,” said Matthew, a two-time winner next door at Archerfield Links. “Obviously she [Pettersen] has a lot of experience. I would say she’s looking good, actually. I think she’s looking confident. She putted well at the Dow. So it will be interesting to see how she does this week.”