All roads lead to Toledo and European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew is well aware of the challenge her team faces this week in Ohio.
Team Europe have only won once on American soil – that was back in 2013 in Colorado when they secured an 18-10 victory over their US counterparts.
But they come to the Inverness Club as defending champions, after Suzann Pettersen’s heroics at Gleneagles in 2019.
However, Matthew isn’t shying away from the task in hand and has prepared her team for the atmosphere they will face.
“The fact we have only won once in Colorado shows how difficult it is to win away from home. Obviously, this year it is going to be more difficult and be more of a challenge for us, but I think in a way we can nearly rise to that,” said Matthew.
“Rather than just thinking we’re going to have a few fans; we’re expecting very few fans – almost zero. A few Europeans who perhaps are living in the States can make it here, but it certainly won’t be the same presence that we normally have at an away match.”
Matthew is joined once again by Kathryn Imrie and Dame Laura Davies, while Pettersen returns as a Vice Captain too.
The old saying goes ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and Matthew certainly hopes that is the case with her leadership team.
She explained: “It’s great. We have gotten to know each other well over the last four years and we have great fun together. We all bring something different to the team and hopefully I think we all gel well together, and we have great fun out there.”
Last time out Mel Reid came in as a Vice Captain when Pettersen made the team and Matthew believes that experience will help the LPGA Tour winner.
“For Mel, it was a tough situation really for her last year. She just missed out on this team, but I think she jumped at the chance of being a vice captain and didn’t need to think of it twice. I think that just really just shows the passion and the desire she has for the team. She realizes it’s not about the individual, it’s about the team,” said Matthew.
“I think having the experience of being behind the scenes and seeing it from another kind of angle will really help her out there on the golf course and with the rookies and the less experienced players.”
But it won’t just be Reid who Team Europe can rely on for advice, as they will have Solheim Cup stalwarts Anna Nordqvist and Carlota Ciganda to turn to as well.
“I think you’re looking at probably Mel, Anna, Carlota – the ones who have played in a few different Solheims. They will just be playing the practice rounds, chatting together, and talking about their different experiences in Solheim Cups and what the rookies can expect in an away match, what the first tee is going to be like and just different perhaps strategies on the golf course.”
Team Europe has four rookies this year with Sophia Popov, Leona Maguire, Matilda Castren and Nanna Koerstz Madsen all set to make their Solheim Cup debuts.
Matthew first pulled on the European colours in 1998 at Muirfield Village when Team USA secured a 16-12 victory.
The European Captain reflected on her emotions during the competition and what the players will feel when they take to the first tee at Inverness Club.
“I was very much a rookie. I remember I was in the first foursomes, fortunate enough to get a pretty good partner in Annika [Sörenstam]. You walk on to that tee, and I think it is the most nervous you are. But when you’re playing and you’re playing your best, that’s what you’ve worked for your whole career is for these moments,” Matthew explained.
“Obviously you’re nervous on the first tee, but you quickly get over it and settle into the match. The event has grown hugely since then back in ’98. The first tee here looks amazing and I’m sure the rookies and all the players, are going to have a real mixture of emotions. You’re nervous. You’re excited. It’s just getting off that first tee and then they will get going.”