Carnoustie doesn’t have to be stretched out to its full length to be “a brute” in this summer’s AIG Women’s Open – the weather will do the job, believes Catriona Matthew.
The 2009 Women’s Open champion and European Solheim Cup captain was at the famous championship links on Tuesday she knows so well. She played the 2011 Women’s Open there – finishing fifth behind Yani Tseng – and multiple amateur events.
And while excessive length is in vogue with this week’s men’s PGA Championship being played on a record long 7800-yard Kiawah Island, at Carnoustie you don’t have to walk back to the furthest tee boxes to make it a challenge, she reckons.
‘A beast, a brute of a test’
“For us, with a strong wind this course can be 6200 yards and it’s still going to be a beast, a brute of a test,” she said. “And you can play it at 6800 with no wind. You don’t have to be obsessed with the length of the course, it’s the weather that makes it full-on.
“That one year when the men were here and it was set-up tough…no-one wants to make it ridiculous. I think the way the R&A have done it recently, it’s very much weather dependent and that’s good.
“It was almost perfect at the men’s Open in 2018. You want to see it running hard and fast the way a links course should play. If we can get some sunshine and see the course that yellowy tinge to it, and a bit of a breeze, that would be perfect.”
The women’s game, Matthew believes, is set-up for a more rounded form of the game than we’#ll see this week at Kiawah.
‘Playing every club in the bag brings out the best’
“For the men 7800 yards isn’t that long, given they hit it 330 yards off the tee,” she said. “What makes a good golf course for me is playing every club in the bag, that brings out the best players.
“It’s variety that people like, long par fours, shorter par fours, reachable par fives, par fives you can’t reach. The men’s tour is perhaps losing that variety a little, I think. Pound for pound and the distance we hit it, we play the courses longer than the men do.
“Our set up is where you are hitting more clubs in the bag. That’s good. The men’s is a little bit more one-dimensional. For me I would rather have more variety.”
Matthew herself will play “six or seven events” this year, including the Scottish Women’s Open at Dumbarnie Links in Fife. The next week she’ll play again at the Women’s Open, from August 19-22, but the rest of her time is given over to Solheim Cup preparations.
‘The venues are the ones players want to come and play’
“Hopefully this year if things keep progressing nicely, we might get a few spectators in August. Last year was a little odd, especially the bigger events like the AIG Women’s Open at Troon.
“But the venues for the championship are the ones players want to come to play, certainly the overseas players. Troon, Carnoustie, Muirfield, these are the courses they’ve watched men’s Opens on growing up. They all relish the opportunity to come and play them.”
Matthew has had one trip to the US for the first major, the ANA Championship in April. She will return in June to the Solheim Cup venue at Inverness Country Club.
‘There’s going to be new players and you want that’
“The team is taking shape, there’s some good new players coming through. Young Pia Babnik, a couple of the young Danes, Leona (Maguire) has had some great finishes.
“Sophia Popov is top 25 in the world after winning the Women’s Open last year, she’ll be a great addition to the team.
“There’s established players too, Mel (Reid) is playing well, Carlota (Ciganda) had a good finish in Thailand. There’s going to be new players and you want that, a changeover of players.”
“I’m not really concerned with the Americans are shaping up. You know they’ll have 12 good players, whatever happens.”