A new season always brings new hope. For Kathryn Marshall, a switch to a long putter has spurred her thoughts of a return to Solheim Cup action, while fellow-Scot Catriona Matthew is aiming to follow one record-breaking season with one that is even better.
Marshall launches her 2002 campaign this week in the Australian LPG Championship at the Horizons Resort near Sydney and she prays that a winter's endeavours will produce suitable dividends. She has been practising with the broom handle on her hall carpet but the real test will only come when she is put under the pressure of the real thing.
Poor form on the greens has been Marshall's malaise for longer than she cares to remember. She has tried various styles - the Langer clamp, left hand low and all manner of implements - but this is the first time that has shrugged off any thoughts of embarrassment and turned to the elongated wand that she hopes will weave some magic.
'It's felt good in practice,' she informed. 'But I'm not promising that I'll be using it all season. But whenever you try something new you've got to give it time.
'I've been out here in Australia for the past couple of weeks, and it seems ages (over four months to be precise) since I last played in a tournament. I'm jut dying to get started again.'
Matthew, meanwhile, has decided to miss this £40,000 event that counts to neither the Evian nor LPGA Tours. Instead, she will begin her year at next week's ANZ Australian Masters when the world's top two, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, will similarly get 2002 underway.
For the past month, Matthew has been tinkering with her preparations in the perfect Florida sunshine. Last year, the 32-year-old from North Berwick won the Hawaiian Open, earned over $750,000 and finished as the leading Briton on the US LPGA circuit.
'But I want to do even better this year,' she said with conviction. 'I want to win one or more events and climb even higher on the money list.'
She also wants to get back into the Solheim Cup team, although she certainly won't be counting her chickens following her shock omission two years ago. Seemingly certain to make the side, she was controversially overlooked by fellow-Scot Dale Reid, and Matthew is unconvinced that the captain already has her pencilled in for the defence of the trophy in America come September.
'A lot will depend on who is playing well nearer the time,' she suggested. 'I'm not even really thinking about it yet.'
There is little doubt that Reid's actions have soured Matthew's view of the European Tour and, this year, she will limit her appearances to next week in Australia (yes, it is on the European schedule) the Evian Masters in France and the Weetabix British Open at Turnberry in August.
As a result, she recognises that it will be very tough to work her way automatically into the top seven in the Solheim rankings - the number that are guaranteed selection. Once again, she will be relying on one of Reid's five wild cards.
As for Marshall, she is desperate to get back into the side, and could extend her European appearances if she has a chance of making the elite seven. 'I'll play it by ear,' she admits. 'I would love to play more in Europe, if only the prize money was a bit better.' But if the new putter does its stuff, then quite a bit of it could be coming her way.
|| 13 - FEBRUARY 2002