In the days between the AIG Women’s Open and the Solheim Cup, LPGA.com caught up with the captains for a final Q&A before the matches begin. First: two-time European captain, Catriona Matthew:
Q: What a tremendous week, having a major championship at Carnoustie, close to your home (in North Berwick). It looked like most of your players caught early flights to London after the AIG Women’s Open. Are you all traveling to Toledo together or has everyone gone home and will travel separately?
Captain Catriona: No everyone went home and will travel separately. They’re spread out everywhere.
Q: When will you gather again?
Captain Catriona: I think everyone is traveling either Monday or Tuesday, so we should all be together by Tuesday evening at the latest depending on flight times.
Q: What have the last three weeks been like as you’ve finalized the team and put the finishing touches on everything?
Captain Catriona: The last few weeks, we saw a lot of changes on our team with shifts in the points and the world rankings. We had a lot of players really playing well. So, it has been stressful, especially after looking at the picks. But it’s nice to have everything finalized and ready to go.
Q: Oftentimes, you don’t realize how stressed you are until the thing causing that stress goes away and you’re finally able to breathe again. Was that the case for you during these last weeks?
Captain Catriona: Yeah, I think certainly last week with so many different scenarios up in the air and it all coming down to Sunday and what happened in the final round (of the AIG Women’s Open), that was certainly more stressful than it was the last time (I captained in 2019). And it’s never easy telling people that they’re not on the team. It’s never nice. But it is nice now that we have the team finalized and we can concentrate on the Solheim Cup, looking at pairings and that kind of thing, the exciting things.
Q: Are you flying out (of Edinburgh) on Sunday?
Captain Catriona: Yes, I’m flying on Sunday.
Q: What will you do between now and then?
Captain Catriona: The kids are starting back to school. My youngest just started the first day of high school today. I took her in for the first time. So, it has been a different kind of excitement here. She was nervous, a little like standing on that first tee at the Solheim Cup.
Q: Pat (Hurst) has been up front about using the pod system that Paul Azinger created for the 2008 Ryder Cup, breaking the 12-player team into three pods of four based on their personalities. When you do the pairings, is it based on personalities or golf?
Captain Catriona: I think we’re just one big pod, really. I asked players who they might want to play with and take that into consideration. Some might not want to play with a particular player based on their type of game. But at the end of the day, our players are more than willing to play with anyone. So, I try to go with experience and inexperience.
Then you factor in that you’re sitting four players out each session the first two days and you’re trying to give everyone enough rest. You’ve seen it over the years, it all comes down to singles.
I think it’s a combination of everything when it comes to the pairings, really.
Q: What do you think of the extraordinary rise of Matilda Castren and what she had to accomplish just to be eligible for the team?
Captain Catriona: If I’m being honest, last year I’d never heard of her. I saw her at the U.S. Women’s Open and then she won the next week at the Mediheal. I felt bad having to tell her that she had to be a member of the LET to be eligible. Then, she decided to go to Finland and play.
To win in your home country is hard enough. But to win in your home country knowing that she had to win to be eligible for the Solheim Cup is extraordinary. It just shows how mentally strong she is.
Q: A lot is said about how the Europeans grow up playing match play as juniors and amateurs. Is that something you look at given how long ago that might have been for some of these players?
Captain Catriona: Oh, yes, obviously, you look at a player like Leona Maguire, who had such an outstanding Curtis Cup record. The Curtis Cup would be the biggest event you could play at that point and you have the same kind of pressure at that point in your career as you will find in the Solheim Cup now.
Q: The breakout performance of Celine Boutier in the 2019 Solheim Cup took a lot of people by surprise. Did that performance play a role in her being on this team?
Captain Catriona: Absolutely. And she’s had a very good year. She’s not the flashiest player but you watch her week-in and week-out and she’s right up there. She’s not long but every facet of her game is really good. And she’s a great putter, which is always something good to have in match play.
Q: You made what could have been a controversial pick last time around when you added Suzann Pettersen to the roster. Turns out, Suzann holed the winning putt for Europe. You didn’t do that this time around, although Mel Reid hasn’t been on her best form. Do you think Mel might end up being the key?
Captain Catriona: Could well be. She’s got real passion for the Solheim Cup. Truly loves it. I think the fact that when I told her (in 2019) that she wasn’t in, the next words out of her mouth were that she wanted to be a vice captain. There was no hesitation, which shows her character. She’s also a great entertainer and motivator. She’ll be good to have around the team room and I think the younger players will rally to her.
Q: Emily Pederson has proven herself to be an outstanding player. But she can also be emotional. How do you harness that skill and those emotions in what is likely to be the most stressful environment in which she has ever played?
Captain Catriona: I think she’ll be fine. Obviously, we’ve got the vice captains out there to help her. It’s a special time for her and, of course, everyone’s going to be nervous. But it will be good to have that support out there to help her.
Q: What’s left on your agenda?
Captain Catriona: Just getting in before players start arriving, making sure everything’s in order and then working on the pairings. It’s going to be a great week.