LONDON (Reuters) - The Solheim Cup can sometimes create niggly moments between the two teams but the players generally end the week as friends, according to European wildcard selection Catriona Matthew.
The Scot was given the perfect 46th birthday gift on Tuesday when she was one of captain Carin Koch’s four wildcard picks for next month’s matches, along with Germany’s Caroline Masson, Swede Caroline Hedwall and Karine Icher of France.
The biennial Solheim Cup event, much like the men’s Ryder Cup equivalent, can often throw up a spicy confrontation and Matthew would not be surprised if there were one or two controversial moments in Heidelberg, Germany from Sept. 18-20.
“I‘m sure there will be some niggles, I mean that’s half the fun of matchplay,” she laughed.
“There is always something that comes up, it’s part and parcel of a team event in that kind of high-pressure environment, but in the end it’s all pretty good natured,” Matthew told Reuters in an interview.
“The Europeans always have a good party at the end, win or lose, and they (the U.S.) perhaps have their own party. Come the next week it’s all done and dusted, we’re all back to playing together ... and we all come out friends again.”
Europe are hoping to make it a hat-trick of Solheim Cup victories for the first time since the competition was launched in 1990.
U.S. captain Juli Inkster has suggested the pressure is on Koch’s team but Matthew, who will be playing in the event for the eighth time, sees things differently.
“She’s just trying to deflect the pressure away from her own team,” said the world number 53.
“On paper, and according to the world rankings, the Americans are the favorites but because we have won the last two, and we are at home, I think it will be a tight match.”
Matthew, the joint sixth highest scorer in Solheim Cup history with 16 points, will spend the next two weeks trying to make sure her game is in tip-top shape to take on the Americans.
The 2009 British Open champion is a regular on the LPGA Tour and has accumulated more than $9 million in prize money on the U.S. circuit.
Matthew, however, has managed only one top-10 finish on the other side of the Atlantic this season and knows she needs to brush up on her short-game skills in particular.
“I’ve probably played better than my scores indicate but I plan to use the next two weeks at home to get some hard work in,” she said.
“My short game has probably been my weakness this year so I’ll try to do a lot of work on that. The short game needs to be sharp in match play, you can make up for a lot with a good chip or a long putt.”
Matthew said she was thrilled that Koch had given her one of the wildcard berths.
”It’s my favorite event of the year,“ she added. ”I knew the night before that I was going to be picked and it was a relief.
”It will be my eighth Solheim Cup and I think it gets more exciting the more you play in them.
“When you’ve played in so many you know what you’re missing out on if you don’t make the team. That makes you even more determined to make the team and it’s even more special when you get in,” Matthew said.
“It’s made it a birthday I will not forget.”
Editing by Ed Osmond