Matthew rolls back the years in the Troon gales
Scottish veteran in joint tie for fourth after opening round American Olson three clear on brutal day at famous links
In 2009, Sophie Matthew was 11 weeks old and being looked after by her grandmother while her own mother made history by winning the AIG Women’s Open. Now, Sophie is 11 years old and once more granny is in charge as Supermum attempts to amaze the world again.
This is plainly no weather for capes – unless you want to take off across the Firth of Clyde – but could Catriona Matthew possibly send her superhero status soaring still further by becoming the oldest major winner of either gender here on this Ayrshire links on Sunday?
Yes, these are early days and, as ever, it is easy to be seduced by the first-round leaderboard on which the Scot, who turns 51 next Tuesday, is riding high in a tie for fourth, three behind American pacesetter, Amy Olson. But these are also swirly days and with winds gusting towards 30mph, experience tends help keep the veterans tethered close to par.
While the gung-ho youngsters are sometimes blown off the beaten track, the wise old campaigners understand the necessity to remain on the straight and narrow. And Matthew certainly did that yesterday, with a vintage display off the Troon tee-boxes that left a woeful run – featuring nine missed cuts in her past 11 events – behind in the rattling wing-mirror.
“I don’t know when the last time was that I came off the course feelleled as happy as I do now. My form hasn’t been great, pretty pathetic, in fact,” said Matthew, who is ranked 407th in the world.
“I don’t think I missed a fairway and people will ask me how when it’s like this, but I just happened to drive it well. It’s funny, because everyone will say I love these conditions, but if I was at home I don’t know I’d actually go out and play on a day like this. I’d probably sit on my sofa and look at them and think, ‘what idiots, playing in this’.
“I’ve played in this event so many times and throughout the years we’ve had some brutal days and you have to go out with the mentality of just hanging in there. You’ll get the odd bad break, but you might get a few good ones. I used every club in my bag today and that is rare. That the scoring is not going to be superlow will suit me and there’s no reason why I can’t go on from here.”
Unlike the majority of the 144-woman field, Matthew has been here before. Not just in the pressurised situation – albeit an entirely surreal one as the first female major of the season takes place being hind closed doors – but Troon itself. The Open Championship venue has never hosted the AIG Women’s Open before but it does stage the annual Helen Holm Trophy, one of Britain’s most notable amateur tournaments.
“I won that in 1990 and as it was 30 years ago I don’t remember much about it, but I do recall us having some horrific days,” Matthew said, following her 71. “So, no, this is not my first time and the way I saw it today was that the forecast was saying we’d get 40mph winds so we lucked out.”
Of course, others disagreed. There were 14 scores in the 80s and as these included quality Solheim Cup players, such as England’s Bronte Law, France’s Celine Boutier and a few from the opposing side in Annie Park and Gerina Piller and with the likes of world No7 Brooke Henderson shooting a 77, world No10 Lexi Thompson firing a 78, it was clearly treacherous.
However, as Matthew signified, it simple to get psyched out by the severity of the challenge and, despite the average score hovering somewhere near 76, Olson proved that it was feasible to go low with a brilliant 67, in which she bogeyed the third and then played the remaining 15 holes in five under.
Iron will: Catriona Matthew in action on the 18th on her way to an even-par 71