Catriona Matthew to have six captain's picks for Solheim Cup defence

Scot’s wildcards increased by two from victory at Gleneagles last year

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 12:30 pm
Catriona Matthew celebrates her winning Solheim Cup captaincy on Scottish soil at Gleneagles last September. She will now have six picks for next year's match in Toledo, Ohio. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA
Catriona Matthew celebrates her winning Solheim Cup captaincy on Scottish soil at Gleneagles last September. She will now have six picks for next year's match in Toledo, Ohio. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA

European captain Catriona Matthew will have six picks, two more than her sensational winning effort at the helm on home soil at Gleneagles last September, for next year's Solheim Cup defence in Ohio.

The North Berwick woman revealed the change in a media roundtable interview ahead of a "Tee It Up Toledo" event, a virtual celebration to kick-off the year-long build up to the 2021 clash at Inverness Golf Club.

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"We actually have changed our qualification for this match because of the kind of impact on the schedule this year," said Matthew of the Covid-19 pandemic hitting events on both the LET and LPGA Tour this season. "We've changed it to two from the LET points, four from the world rankings and six picks.

"We just felt with the players not playing as much and kind of all the schedules being up in the air that it was just nice to do that and give you a bit more options and what you might do going forward next year."

Matthew, helped by input from her vice-captains, including fellow Scot Kathryn Imrie, did a great job with her wildcard selections for last year's match by adding Celine Boutier, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Bronte Law and Suzann Pettersen to the eight automatic qualifiers.

Frenchwoman Boutier won three matches out of three alongside Georgia Hall before also tasting victory in the last-day singles while Law and Pettersen delivered the final two points to give Europe a dramatic 14.5-13.5 victory over the PGA Centenary Course in Perthshire.

"Well, we'll find out next year, won't we," replied Matthew to being asked if the increase in picks could potentially cause her some headaches. "The last time we had four picks, and I think probably three-quarters of your picks are fairly obvious.

"It's probably just the last one or two that you have a little bit more stress over, and it comes down to one player or another. That's when it's fun having discussions with the vice captains and seeing what everyone thinks.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to kind of your gut feeling on that last pick and just how that person perhaps fits in to the team and whether you're looking for maybe experience or you know you've not got many rookies so a rookie would be a good pick.

"Having the six, I think at least four of them will be pretty straightforward and perhaps the last two will require a little bit more thought."

While Steve Stricker has also been handed six picks for next year's Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, US Solheim Cup captain Pat Hurst currently has just two, though she is working on that.

"It sounds like they don't want to change the points," said Hurst, who was appointed as Juli Inkster's successor after her two-match winning run ended in Scotland. "Maybe we can do more picks. I think four would be great. I don't know if we'll get that."

Both Matthew and Pettersen, who announced her retirement straight after holing the winning putt at Gleneagles and will be a vice-captain in Toledo, were delighted to see Hall return to winning ways at the weekend.

The English player landed her first success since claiming the 2018 Women's Open at Royal Lytham and also her first victory on US soil as she beat South African Ashleigh Buhai in a play-off to win the Portland Cambia Classic on the LPGA Tour.

"I think getting her first win on American soil will do wonders for her confidence," said Matthew, a major winner herself, of course, in the same event and at the same venue in 2009. "I think just to win at the highest level obviously helps your confidence, and golf as we know is all about confidence.

"I think that's a fantastic win for her, and hopefully she'll just go from strength to strength now, obviously still with the US Open to come this year with the strange schedule."

Pettersen, a 15-time PGA Tour winner, also heaped praise on Hall, saying: "I think it's hard to win at this level any week. She's proved she can now win a major, and I think for her to win last week in Portland gives her a huge confidence boost and kind of gives her the little push that I think she needs.

"I don't think she quite gives herself the credit she deserves, but she's a great player. I was really impressed when I saw her play in 2017 and was not surprised seeing her win the Women's British Open in 2018."

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