Catriona Matthew: On the Solheim Cup and Brazil 2016November, 2015
Mark Townsend meets the Scot who has her eyes fixed on Brazil 2016
At the risk of ageing Catriona Matthew, the Scot was playing on the LPGA Tour two years before Lydia Ko was even born.
She has now played in 79 Majors, one of which brought her most memorable moment when, 11 weeks after giving birth, she won the Women’s British Open at Lytham. In addition, she has twice secured the winning point in the Solheim Cup and this year was her eighth appearance.
For all her achievements, she is as modest today as when she first broke through. She will be 47 by the time the 2016 Olympics takes place and there is every chance that the girl from North Berwick will be in Rio, doing herself and her country proud.
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How would you sum up 2015?
It’s been a nearly year, I feel like I’ve played better than my scores have indicated but perhaps I’ve not putted quite well enough.
You are renowned for your consistency, would you rather be streaky?
After the year I’ve had I probably would rather have a win and a second and some not so good weeks. But over a career I would probably rather be consistent.
You were 3/3 before the singles at the Solheim Cup, what makes you such a good partner?
I am pretty level, I am not too up or down and that type of personality appeals. I am pretty easy going and that’s probably I why play with a lot of rookies.
I played some of my best golf of the year, I think I do come alive in front of the biggest crowds and that’s why you practice and what you dream about.
You play 25 tournaments of strokeplay so to have team-mates and matchplay adds to the excitement and the crowds really get into it.
Suzann wasn’t going to give the putt and you don’t pick up the ball until it has been given" What is your ideal partner?
To be honest, someone you get on with. I never think matching game types is the way to go, more the personality. There is nothing worse if you hit a bad shot and then look round and your partner is peed off with you.
This year I played with Sandra Gal, who I partnered in Ireland and she has really come on in the last few years. Karine Icher and I are similar ages and mums and her husband, like mine, was caddying for her so we have a lot in common.
Where were you when the Alison Lee-Suzann Pettersen gimme controversy was happening?
I was sitting in a cart off to the side of the 17th waiting to go back to the clubhouse, we had just won our match at the same hole.
We watched the second shots but needed to get ready for the singles and we were halfway back when we heard that we had won the hole and we couldn’t really understand how that had happened.
What is your take on it?
It put a dampener on the event, the golf had been great. Suzann wasn’t going to give the putt and you don’t pick up the ball until it has been given.
In hindsight it could have been handled better but, at the end of the day, if they weren’t going to give it they weren’t going to give it. Maybe the captains could have got together.
In that situation it is such high pressure so maybe you are not thinking as clearly as you might. It is all too easy to say afterwards you should have done this and that.
When did you speak to Suzann?
I didn’t see Suzann until the closing ceremony so it wasn’t until the Sunday evening that we could all sit down and talk about what had happened.
She was questioning what she should have done but I stand by her, she is a good friend. To be honest I don’t know what I would have done in the same position.
Would you like to be captain?
I think I’d like to do it. Ideally I would be a vice-captain first and then do it. If Scotland hosted it in 2019 that might be a good spot! [It has been announced that Gleneagles will host the 2019 Solheim Cup].
Do you find that your body is slowing down?
As you get older it does become more of a struggle but I do a lot of fitness work and physio. In truth the travelling takes it out of you more. At this time of year there is a lot of long-haul travel. You are playing against people 30 years younger than you so you have to be on top of it.
I have always been quite keen on my fitness, I played for Scotland at badminton when I was younger. I was never the best but I would get in the team.
Is power now more prominent in the ladies’ game?
I think so. You see rookies close to six feet and they hit it a long way, I probably hit if further than I did when I came on Tour but then you have Lydia Ko who is the World No 1 but isn’t the longest.
You need reasonable length but you don’t have to be the longest to be the best, look at Lydia and Jordan Spieth. Lydia very rarely hits a bad shot and you would take that over an extra 20 yards.
I am still in the top 30 for driving distance; I have never been the longest but am certainly not short.
Who is the best player in the world?
I would say Lydia has a slight edge over Inbee Park. Stacy Lewis hasn’t had her best year and then there’s Lexi but week in, week out Lydia and Inbee are the best two.
Lydia won’t make you say wow on the range but if you watched her for 18 holes you would soon realise how good she was. You look at Michelle (Wie) or Lexi and go wow.
Could Michelle potentially threaten the top two?
I think it would be a struggle, I don’t think she would have the consistency of those two but she will still have her big weeks.
As things stand you would make it into the GB Olympic side along with Charley…
That is obviously a big goal, it would be a great experience. Even if you didn’t play golf you would still be watching. It would be amazing, golf is such an individual sport and we are rarely with other sports people.
Name three of your favourite Olympians?
I always liked Carl Lewis and Daley Thompson and, more recently, Jessica Ennis-Hill. I’m sure I’ve missed out quite a few of my favourites!
Have they got the format right, a 72-hole strokeplay event?
No, I don’t think so. I think they could have gone for something more exciting, maybe some sort of team element with the men and playing the same week.
How often do you get asked for your autograph?
More so in Asia, women’s golf is huge there. One time I was flying back from Taipei after a tournament and the stewardess said would I mind signing an autograph.
Obviously I said no problem and I turned round and there were 10 people queuing up.