Never too early for Catriona Matthew to forget

CATRIONA Matthew will be up early this morning in an attempt to steal a march on her rivals as she tries to put aside the memory of her defence of the Women's British Open title.

She missed the cut at Royal Birkdale last year after her triumph at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2009.

But Matthew will perhaps benefit from an early tee time today, having been given a slot at 6.52am in the company of America's Cristie Kerr and Momoko Ueda from Japan.

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It doesn't faze Matthew, who has two young daughters. Famously, she claimed her first major just 11 weeks after giving birth to her second child Sophie. "I am used to these early starts now," she said yesterday. "I have it down to a fine art."

It might not cause her undue concern for another reason. The wind is not likely to be as fierce early in the morning, giving Matthew and Michelle Wie, another early starter, a hoped-for advantage. "That seems the best time to play links golf," said Matthew. "Obviously you never know, you can have a good draw or a bad draw. But a lot depends on the weather. Certainly playing early can sometimes be an advantage as it maybe gets you out before the wind picks up or maybe the rain comes."

Everything points towards Matthew feeling at home here, even though she was raised in East Lothian. She won an amateur title on the Angus Course in 1991, beating Blairgowrie's Fiona Anderson in the final.

Twenty years later she returns as a major winner, and as a "Carnoustie Country" ambassador to boot. Asked what this entails, she said: "It's really just about trying to promote not necessarily just Carnoustie but also the whole area. There are a lot of other good golf courses in this area. Playing in America a lot, that's obviously where the bulk of the visitors come from so I try and encourage them to come over here and play, not just Carnoustie, but also Montrose and Monifieth and all the other good courses in the area."

Matthew is able to focus purely on golf this week, having arrived in Carnoustie without her two most precious possessions, Sophie and eldest daughter Katie.

"These two weeks we are just on our own," she said, with reference to Graeme, who doubles as her caddie as well as husband. "It's good fun travelling with them. But it's nice at times to have a week on your own. They're enjoying being spoilt by their grandparents."