Solheim Cup: Reid backs Matthew's bold Pettersen call

Catriona Matthew of Scotland (second from left) announces her wildcard picks (L-R seated on the right) Celine Boutier of France, Bronte Law of England, and Suzann Pettersen of Norway
Catriona Matthew (second from left) announces her wildcard picks at Gleneagles

For a golfer regarded as one of the game's more quiet, measured and pragmatic figures, Catriona Matthew made the boldest of calls in selecting Suzann Pettersen for her ninth Solheim Cup.

The Norwegian's world-class credentials and feisty, fighting qualities are in no doubt but Pettersen, who has been as high as number two in the world, has played competitively only twice in the last two years.

In that period she became a mother for the first time, giving birth to Herman last August who is now one year old. There were subsequent questions over whether she would return to full-time tournament play.

But Matthew needed little convincing that Pettersen is the right person to balance an exciting looking European team, which will try to avoid a third successive defeat against the United States at Gleneagles next month.

And at least one member of her backroom support was unsurprised by the selection.

"Suzann was always going to be a pick for me," newly-appointed vice-captain Mel Reid told BBC Sport. "With her experience you know she will be ready in September, there's no doubt about it.

"That's just the way her mindset is. She is one of the mentally strongest players I have ever had the privilege of playing with.

"We need that kind of experience in this team and I feel that's what we've lacked in previous years."

Suzann Pettersen at the Dow Great Lakes Invitational
"I'm delighted I got the thumbs up from Beany [Catriona Matthew] that she wanted me on the team," Pettersen said of her selection

Matthew partnered Pettersen in her comeback LPGA event, the Dow Great Lakes Invitational last month. That was the first signal that the Scandinavian star was in the captain's thoughts for Gleneagles.

"I played two rounds with her and was super-impressed with how she was hitting the ball," the European captain told BBC golf podcast The Cut.

"I know myself coming back from having a baby, I think it was more probably self doubt on her part. Whether she would be able to have that will to want to come back and compete.

"You could see after those two rounds she had that bug right back, wanting to play golf and be in that team. Her golf is not in question, for me it was an easy pick.

"This is Suzann's ninth one now. She knows what to expect from the week and she will play in Canada and Portland to get another couple of events under her belt.

"And from personal experience I know coming back from having (daughters) both Katie and Sophie I obviously had a long time off. I came back and it felt as though I had never been away."

It was a forthright defence of her decision to pick the player the skipper replaced at the last minute for the Solheim Cup two years ago at Des Moines. Then it was injury that robbed Pettersen of her ninth appearance.

And there must be an outside chance that Europe will need to make a late change for this match as well. The selection of Jodi Ewart Shadoff is another interesting call.

The US-based Englishwoman has just undergone minor back surgery to correct a problem that has been troubling her for much of this season. The Solheim Cup starts on 13 September and the clock is ticking loudly.

"She played really well at the beginning of the year and then had issues with her back," Matthew told me. "She's had a slight procedure done this week which has been very successful and she is pain-free for the first time in a few months.

"She's 100% confident she will be ready to play," Matthew added. "A fit Jodi Ewart is again an easy pick."

Jodi Ewart Shadoff
Ewart Shadoff featured in the 2013 and 2017 European Solheim Cup team

Nevertheless Reid, who is "gutted" to not be playing having missed out on a wildcard, is vowing to work hard to be ready to step up if required next month.

The most comfortable selections were of another English player, Bronte Law, and the Frenchwoman Celine Boutier. Law won earlier this year on the LPGA Tour and has a superb team record from her amateur career.

The 24-year-old Stockport star played in three Curtis Cups, including a record-breaking contribution to the 2016 match where she won all five of her matches for the Great Britain and Ireland team.

"I just really enjoy being part of something bigger and team golf gives you that," Law told BBC Sport.

"It's something that really fires me up and I have the responsibility of playing well for myself but also for the other team members.

"I just feel really in the moment, immersed in the job in hand and really focused on what I'm doing. It elevates me to another level that you sometimes struggle to reach on a regular day-to-day basis."

This is the sense of inspiration the European team will need in abundance to wrestle back a trophy they have not won since 2013.

They are desperate to succeed and the omens are good. Europe have enjoyed victories in their previous two matches in Scotland - at Loch Lomond in 2000 and Dalmahoy in 1992.

They are likely to face a relatively inexperienced US line-up that currently includes the likes of Lexi Thompson, Nelly and Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas. Captain Juli Inkster will have two wildcard picks after the CP Open in Canada which ends on 25 August.

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