Scotland’s Golf Coast

Matt Cooper was in Edinburgh last week enjoying Scotland’s Golf Coast and the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open.

Matt Cooper was in Edinburgh last week enjoying Scotland’s Golf Coast and the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open.
Solheim Cup
With just 33 days to wait until the Solheim Cup begins there has been plenty of talk all week about which 24 players will compete at Killeen Castle.
The American side will be finalised in the next two days when the qualification period ends and captain Rosie Jones announces her two captain’s picks. Over the next two days at the Safeway Classic Kristy McPherson, Katie Futcher and Vicky Hurst are trying to overhaul Christina Kim who currently holds the tenth and final guaranteed spot in the standings.
Jones’ two picks will (most assume) be made from a list which includes whichever of those four don’t qualify plus the veteran Pat Hurst.
The European team already has four qualifiers after Laura Davies, Mel Reid, Christel Boeljon and Suzann Pettersen topped the LET rankings list. A further four places will be taken by the next four top-ranked European in the world rankings as of Monday 29th August. Maria Hjorth, Anna Nordqvist and Catriona Matthew are all-but guaranteed to be three of the four with Sophie Gustafson currently in the fourth spot.
Assuming that nothing changes who will captain Alison Nicholas turn to for her four picks?
From interviews Nicholas has conducted during her last captaincy in 2009 and in the last two years, plus the words of her vice-captain Annika Sorenstam, we can make a good guess at the requirements needed by the four.
But before we discuss that, consider this important point – the team already has two rookies (Reid and Boeljon) and it is widely assumed on tour that a third (Caroline Hedwall) is a stonewall certainty. The feeling is that one more rookie could be safely accommodated, but a fifth would require a very persuasive argument to be selected ahead of an experienced player.
The flipside of that is that the players with experience are not currently forcing Nicholas’ hand with a run of form.
So, what will Captain Nicholas (and Vice Captains Sorenstam and Morley) be looking for?
1. The ability to cope at the highest level – who has proved it? This has to refer to the majors and the LPGA Tour. Karen Stupples is a major winner, Sandra Gal and Beatriz Recari are winners on the LPGA, and Azahara Munoz was the 2010 LPGA Rookie of the Year.
2. Pressure – who has performed under the cosh this year? Only two possible picks have made the top ten in a major this year. Munoz was eighth in the LPGA Championship and Caroline Masson fifth in the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Stupples was, however, sneakily consistent with finishes of 29-34-15-22. The Evian Masters (big money, strong field, the future fifth major) saw Caroline Hedwall finish 12th and Stupples maintain her dependability (29th).
3. Course form – how have they fared at Killen Castle? Munoz was second this year and eighth in 2010, Becky Brewerton has been 16th and 23rd, whilst Stupples (13th), Hedwall (16th) and Gal (23rd) made their debuts this year.
4. Form – who is playing well when it matters? Results this week and next notwithstanding, there are ticks for Hedwall, Munoz and Masson. Stupples, Brewerton and Gal are middling. But there are crosses against the names of Gwladys Nocera, Diana Luna and Recari.
5. Solheim Cup experience – who has felt the heat of battle? Brewerton has played twice and proved herself a fine partner (complete record: won 3, lost 3, halved 1), Nocera has a strong record over three appearances (5 wins, 3 losses, 2 halves), Luna had a good debut in 2009 (1 win, 1 half) whilst Stupples might have the hunger to improve on her previous appearance (2 losses). The rest are untested.
6. Self motivation – who can stand on the first tee in the singles and want to win so much it hurts? This is the key. In Ryder and Solheim Cups Europeans do well together but the might of US individualism consistently overwhelms their opposition. Whether it is because of personal, national or continental pride you need self-motivated, hungry, unafraid golfers on that first tee on Sunday. Unfortunately knowing who will cope is guesswork – for example most would have thought Martin Kaymer was sanguine enough to cope at the Ryder Cup but, on the contrary, Colin Montgomerie has revealed he was fazed.
7. The other unknown factors: Nicholas needs to trust her team and will be party to information that those of us on the outside will be unaware of.
Who will get the four picks? I’m reluctant to make guesses because I’m not the captain and I have only limited information and supposition on those unknown factors so my thoughts are inherently flawed. But, on the other hand, making guesses is good fun and this week almost everyone has been at it. So, for what it’s worth …
Hedwall has a great game, a strong character and would make a fine partner for plenty of her team-mates – she’s a definite.
I would then select Azahara Munoz who is likely to be the highest-ranked of those requiring picks, has proved herself on the course, in the majors and on the LPGA over a long period. She’s also tougher than first glance might suggest -she possesses leadership qualities and is self-reliant.
Karen Stupples might not have great Solheim experience but she is the most experienced of the options at the highest level, she has been consistent all year (at a higher level than the LET competitors for a place) and has a mental attitude this year that hints at being in a good place for the rigours of the Solheim Cup.
The final spot in “my” team would go to either Becky Brewerton or Sandra Gal. One has Solheim experience, the other a win on the LPGA this year. It’s a tough one and I think there are valid arguments for picking both, but I’d lean towards Brewerton unless Gal pulls something out of the bag in the next nine days.
Home victory
Yesterday I pointed out that Catriona Matthew had lots going for her this week and nothing happened in the final round to change that.
Previously a winner in Scotland? Tick. Winner on the links (some holes here at Archerfield have links-like qualities)? Tick. Winner on a tree-lined seaside venue (as the majority of Archerfield is)? Tick. Local knowledge? Tick (she grew up two miles away). Course knowledge? Tick (she’s a member at Archerfield).
Perhaps it would have been a bigger shock if she hadn’t won.
As it was, despite a four-shot lead going into the final round, the tournament still needed completing and Matthew did the job in ruthless fashion, playing the front nine in five-under-par which knocked the stuffing out of the rest of the field.
When she celebrated victory after the final putt Matthew had her eldest daughter Katie playing at her heels and her competitive future will soon be affected by thoughts about her education.
For now Matthew and her caddie husband Graeme are undecided about what that future will hold, but the current schedule of playing most of her year on the LPGA might become tricky.