RICOH 2012: Catriona Matthew interview
You grew up playing at North Berwick, so do you think your grounding in links golf was a big asset when it came your first Major win at Lytham?
Yes, it must have helped, though I had a poor record at the British Open before then on links. You remember how to play chip and runs and you know what to expect if the weather is bad. You get used to playing in bad weather!
You had an eagle, a hole in one and four birdies on the Friday, were three shots clear of the field on Saturday, and then dropped three shots at the start on Sunday. Did you think it was slipping away?
I’d not lost my momentum. The turning point was the bogey on the 10th. I had a penalty drop from a bush and made a really good up and down.
I saw the scoreboard on the next hole showing I was tied, so I’d not lost my lead. I had played the last eight holes well all week, so was confident about them and really I was happier not having to protect a lead, and almost coming from behind again. I birdied 13, parred 14 and birdied 15. I knew if I could par in, I’d win it.
Was it even more special having husband Graeme on your bag for that victory?
Yes, I think so. I was lucky enough to have a three-shot lead coming up the last. All the Scottish girls were there with their faces painted, so once I had got my drive away, we could both really enjoy coming up the last not needing a par or birdie to win.
Graeme was a former Scottish Boys’ Strokeplay champion. Did he not want to follow his own playing career rather than caddying?
He went to East Tennessee State on a golf scholarship, and realised he would never be good enough to turn professional, so he came back to Stirling university where we were both on golf scholarships and studying accountancy. He became an accountant and then caddied for me.
Do you pay him?!
He gets half!
You won the Open 11 weeks after giving birth. Someone said being separated from your baby at that time would be like severing an arm. How did you cope mentally?
Sophie had colic for the first eight weeks, so I didn’t get any sleep, so it was nice to have a break! Mum and dad looked after her during the week and did the night feeds, so it was quite relaxing.
I certainly wasn’t devastated at being away from her.
She made one appearance on the course, but that was fairly disastrous!
This wasn’t your only dramatic comeback. In 1995 you had emergency surgery to remove an ovarian cyst and returned to the LPGA to compete only one month later. What kind of fitness routines do you have to make these incredible returns?
I probably came back too soon. It was my first year on tour, so I didn’t want to miss too many tournaments.
I work now more on my fitness, having a rigorous routine six days a week in winter, and twice a week in the season, doing a lot of weights to get stronger, plus cardio work.
You remember how to play chip and runs and you know what to expect if the weather is bad. You get used to playing in bad weather! Now the Ricoh is usually played on a links, does that remain your best chance of securing a second Major, or since you play most of your golf in America, are those conditions now more familiar?
Obviously the LPGA is more familiar, as it’s my 16th year now, so I think I’ve got a pretty good chance at the US Open. I make a lot of pars there, rather than a birdie fest, but you never forget how to play links, so those two are probably my best two chances.
What are your feelings about playing at Hoylake?
I’m really looking forward to it. I played in the Curtis Cup there and the British Amateur. I might go and play a practice round soon, but I like the course. I can’t really remember which are the key or dangerous holes until I go and play it again, other than the 1st with the internal OOB.
Is it similar to Lytham?
Lytham is renowned for its bunkers, but I don’t think there are quite as many at Hoylake. There are more sand dunes. I think they are quite different.
What did you make of the way Carnoustie was set up last year – did the LGU strike the right balance?
It’s very rare we don’t get wind at Carnoustie, and we didn’t have any. It would’ve been too difficult if the wind had blown. The 18th maybe could have been a bit further back.
Links are designed to be played in the wind. If the men play links and there’s no wind, it’s easy as well. If the men play St Andrews and 18 under wins, no one complains!
What should the winning score be at the Ricoh? Do you like it when it is -15, or would you prefer par to be a great total?
It doesn’t bother me on a links course. It could be -15 if it’s not windy, par if it is. It’s all weather-related.
Do you hope for some ‘weather’ at the Ricoh, in that it plays into your hands because you’re used to it?
I don’t want driving rain and wind.
Should the Ricoh always be played on a links course?
I always liked Sunningdale. That’s a perfect fit for ladies. It’s great that it’s going to well-known courses now. The overseas players love coming to such well-known courses.
Do those unfamiliar with links struggle with tight lies?
Some do. In the United States players automatically pull out a sand wedge.
On links, it’s different and you can be putting from 20 yards away.
Lives: North Berwick, East Lothian
Family: Two daughters: Katie (5) and Sophie (3)
Amateur career: 1993 British Amateur champion
Curtis Cups: 3 (1990, 92 & 94)
Turned pro: 1995
Majors: 1 (2009 Ricoh WBO)
Solheim Cups: 6 (1998, 2000-11)