Catriona Matthew, the captain of the European Solheim Cup side for 2019, had a sneaking suspicion that the Americans were going to go with Juli Inkster as their captain for a third time. After all, Inkster had answered the two European wins of 2011 and 2013 with wins of her own in St-Leon-Rot in Germany and at Des Moines.
Speaking in the wake of the Inkster announcement, Matthew certainly wasn’t about to suggest that Europeans would be quaking at the knees at the prospect of seeing Inkster at the helm again. “Everyone has a lot of respect for Juli but winning ways have to come to an end at some point,” she said.
Matthews has twice played against Inkster in the context of Solheim Cup foursomes. Each time, she was partnered by a sister Scot in Janice Moodie, with the pair notching one win and one loss.
Her impression of last year’s match in Iowa was that the former U.S. Open champion had helped her team to gel better than before, though here she was not sure that it had anything to do with the Paul Azinger method of forging team unity.
“One thing about Juli is that she’s a fierce competitor on the course but someone who knows how to unwind. She keep things relaxed for her players. You’ve got to have a good atmosphere going for you in these matches and she found it.”
Inevitably, there will be those who point to how the Europeans made life a whole lot easier for the opposition when, in 2015, Suzanne Pettersen stirred up problems for her own side by claiming a hole when Alison Lee, from the ranks of the Americans, picked up the ball after missing a putt without waiting for that putt to be given. To recap, the Europeans felt embarrassed and were more than somewhat apologetic in their play across the last singles’ series. (Having been ahead to the tune of 10-6, the Europeans ended up losing by 14 1/2 points to 13 1/2.)
As is her right, Matthew has adjusted the criteria for team selection. For the purposes of her reign, five players will be plucked from the World Rankings and three from the Ladies European Tour, with four captain’s picks. Again, those looking for a place in the European team will need to play eight LET events rather than six.
The extra spot from the World Rankings signifies that Matthew is happy that the World Rankings are now a deal fairer than they used to be for the European contingent. She cited how having a US Open qualifier played on this side of the Atlantic had been a step in the right direction in terms of making it easier for a European based in Europe to collect the appropriate points.
One area where Matthew thinks she is thrice-blessed is in the venue for the match of ’19 – namely, Gleneagles, the five star course and complex where the men won the 2014 Ryder Cup. “It’s a fantastic venue,” she said. To no-one’s great surprise, she has already spoken to Paul McGinley who, in many people’s opinion, was one of the best Ryder Cup captains of all time.
Extraordinarily enough, Matthew has never been a captain of any kind before, and that though she was a three-time Scottish Amateur champion in the 1990s and the British Amateur champion of 1993.
However, she is assuredly a match for Inkster in being a mother of two and one who has absolutely no problems in maintaining control.