Catriona Matthew is delighted to have been given the “huge honour” of hitting the opening shot in the 2022 AIG Women’s Open.
Matthew will get the Championship under way at Muirfield on Thursday morning, as she goes out with Louise Duncan and Sophia Schubert at 6:30am local time.
A host of former Champions have been handed the honour in recent editions of the AIG Women’s Open and The Open, with Matthew set to follow the likes of Sandy Lyle, Darren Clarke, Dame Laura Davies and Paul Lawrie.
“Obviously it's a huge honour when you're asked to do something like that,” said Matthew, the winner of the AIG Women’s Open in 2009.
Matthew is also delighted to be at Muirfield as the iconic venue hosts a professional women’s championship for the first time.
“I think it's going to be a great experience,” she added. “To come and have a chance to play Muirfield in an AIG Women's Open, I think all the players will have watched the men play here over the years, and I think they are delighted to have that opportunity that they are now able to come here and play their own Open here.
“Obviously over the last probably 10 years or so, we started going to all The Open venues that over the last 50, 60 years you've seen the men playing in, and I think that just elevates this Championship and we are now going to courses that people are used to seeing The Open on. I think it's good for us.”
As a resident of nearby North Berwick, Matthew has particular reason to be excited by this year’s venue.
“For me, personally, obviously living along the road and growing up along the road, I never would have imagined ever playing a major so close to home,” she explained.
Matthew’s experiences in her practice rounds lead her to believe birdies on the front nine will be key to success at Muirfield.
“I think you have to try and do well those kind of first five holes," she said. "Certainly the front nine, I think in this wind, does play a little bit easier, and I think this is the wind it's going to be for the week.
“On the back nine you've got 12, 14, 15 that are tough par-4s. I think I was hitting woods into all of them, actually.
“And then 17, you know, we are playing it pretty long, I would say, even if it’s downwind, but you do have a chance of getting there. And 18 is no bargain. I had a wood in there as well.
“I think you've got to try and make your score in those first five holes, first nine holes, and then kind of hang on on the back nine.”
Muirfield has long been regarded as one of the fairest Championship courses around, an assessment Matthew certainly agrees with.
“It's very fair, actually,” she continued. “It's not one of these ones where if you hit a shot down the middle of the fairway, you're still watching it thinking, oh, is it going to kick into a bunker.
“I think here, if you hit a good shot you're going to stay on the fairway and you're going to stay on the green. I think in that respect, it's probably quite fair.
"And I like the way you go in all different directions. So you've got the wind; you've got it into; you've got it across; you've got it downwind. It's a challenge because you get the wind in every direction on the holes.
“I think the par-3s are going to be tough. I don't think any of the par-3s have any bail-out area. You just have to stand up and hit a good shot on them. I think if you can get four pars on the par-3s (you’d be happy), and obviously try to make your score in the first few holes."