If the assumption is that Suzann Pettersen’s next Solheim Cup chapter will come in the form of captaincy, Catriona Matthew may yet have something to say about a supposed formality.
Pettersen announced her retirement from competitive golf moments after holing the winning putt for Europe on Sunday. Having played in nine Solheim Cups in a hugely successful playing career on both sides of the Atlantic, Pettersen was immediately installed as the hot favourite to lead the European defence in 2021.
Matthew’s captaincy was widely acclaimed as Europe defied underdog status to see off the US by a point. Now, in a departure from a previously held position, the Scot has refused to rule out a second stint. “I’ve not really thought of that yet, to be honest,” Matthew said. “This is such a special moment and I want to enjoy it before I think of what might happen next. You never know, but I will let this one sink in first. I wouldn’t say no.”
A further, fascinating aspect to this is that Matthew and Pettersen are close, meaning there is no chance of them being involved in a bitter joust for captaincy. Matthew raised eyebrows when selecting Pettersen for the Solheim Cup from a world ranking position of 635 but the move paid off handsomely. And yet, Matthew admitted to being completely unaware of Pettersen’s retirement plans until they were unveiled as Europe’s players celebrated. “She hadn’t told any of us,” Matthew said. “But, you know, she’s had such a great career, I can see why she wants to go out on a high.”
When asked whether Pettersen might reverse her decision when the Solheim dust settles, Matthew raised a smile. “No, I can’t see Suzann changing her mind.”
Laura Davies, a vice-captain at Gleneagles, has thrown her support behind Matthew continuing in the role she performed with such distinction. The Englishwoman, though, insists Pettersen will be the captain at some point. “I think she [Pettersen] is nailed on, if she wants to do it,” Davies said. “She would be a great captain of the future. My vote would go to Beany [Matthew] again next time, because everyone has enjoyed it so much.
“I always think that if you win you deserve the chance to go and get the trophy back again. I would encourage her to go for it. Catriona and her family might think it’s way too much, it’s a hell of a commitment. But it’s not any of our choices, it’s the board of the Ladies European Tour.”
Pettersen’s was the ultimate Solheim Cup redemption after she was embroiled in epic controversy in Germany, four years ago. At Des Moines in 2017, Pettersen had to withdraw from the European team at the 11th hour because of a back injury.
“She’s gone from the villain to the hero in one fell swoop,” Davies said. “You can’t cover it up, that [2015 episode] changed the momentum of the Solheim Cup that time. So it’s nice for her that she can come back and win the cup for us with one stroke. I loved that it came down to her.
“That’s why we stacked the bottom half of the singles. We wanted people there who could handle it. Bronte Law, Anna Nordqvist or Suzann, we knew one of those was going to have to win the cup for us. It just happened to be Suzann was the one who did it. Nine times out of 10 in that position she comes out on top. It’s the greatest moment she’s had as a Solheim Cup player. For any player, it has to be the pinnacle.”