IT’S all happening here in Des Moines this week.
If the Solheim Cup wasn’t a big enough attraction, the annual Iowa State Fair is luring them in from a’ the airts with a variety of exhibits, spectacles and extravaganzas as well as some good honest Mid-West quirks and absurdities such as pigeon rolling, rooster crowing, wood chopping, pie eating, monster arm wrestling, outhouse racing and cow chip throwing.
It sounds just like a normal day in the media centre when things get a bit fraught prior to deadline to be honest.
That fever was certainly heightened yesterday when official news was received that Scottish stalwart Catriona Matthew would be playing in this weekend’s transatlantic tussle after all.
It was, quite literally, a sore one for the hirpling Suzann Pettersen as a recurring back injury forced her to retreat from the frontline, but there can be no one better equipped to step into the breach than Matthew.
At the conclusion of the Women’s British Open recently, there was a sense that we were all witnessing the end of a glorious era.
When Matthew, who was a vice-captain in Annika Sorenstam’s backroom team, didn’t receive a wild card pick, it seemed a chapter in the North Berwick veteran’s shimmering Solheim story had been closed. Now, she’s set to scribble yet another few pages.
“I’d got into the vice-captain role and was enjoying that while learning a lot from Annika but now I’ve switched focus and I’m ready to play,” said Matthew who has effectively swapped roles with the unfortunate Pettersen. The Norwegian will assume the post of non-playing vice-captain while Matthew will also use Pettersen’s Scottish caddie, Michael Paterson.
“He’s worked with me a couple of times before,” said Matthew after a change of plan that came too late to get her regular bagman, her husband Graeme, drafted into the scene.
“Having played in the Solheim Cup eight times, that has given me that little bit more experience to deal with the uncertainty of the last few days.”
Matthew’s binding ties with this biennial bout means she’ll be at the head of the queue for the captain’s role when the contest takes place in her homeland at Gleneagles in 2019.
She has always maintained that she doesn’t see herself competing in two years’ time but, given that she possesses the same kind of sturdy longevity of a Victorian rivet, you never say never in this game for all the ages.
“Juli Inkster [the US Captain] played at 51 so you never can tell,” reasoned Matthew.
For the time being, Matthew can savour this opportunity in a campaign that has been far from a vintage one.
Her best finish this season has been a share of 30th back in March but the cut-and-thrust of the matchplay format is a different animal from the staple diet of week-to-week strokeplay and Matthew’s guile, experience and calm, considered demeanour will be a valuable weapon in the European armoury.
“This might just be the thing to spur me on for the rest of the season,” said Matthew. “Matchplay’s a different thing entirely. You can have a bad shot and start again. You see matchplay events and it’s very rare that the top two players reach the final. You just never know.”
The swap with Pettersen is almost a like-for-like switch. The duo have both played in eight Solheim Cups and, from 33 matches each, they have a similar record of 19 points in total.
Sorenstam couldn’t have hoped for a better fit as she re-jigs her pieces.
“Obviously I’m gutted for Suzann not to be able to play,” said Matthew. “It’s the highlight to play in this. She’s a great competitor and I feel really sorry for her, but it is a tough week. You want to give it your all and if you’re not 100 per cent, you perhaps can’t do that.
“It’s great that Suzann is going to do the vice captaincy and we can switch roles. Hopefully I can be as good a leader as Suzann has been all through the years on the course.”
That final statement summed up Matthew’s quiet sense of modesty. She herself has been a driving force of many a European assault down the seasons.
In the daunting environment of away territory and with a team featuring four rookies, Matthew’s presence in the heat of the battle will be a welcome sight.
Source : HeraldScotland