Matthew sets course on fire after narrow escape

Scot who survived hotel blaze last week burns up links to take share of lead

Forget for a moment that Catriona Matthew gave birth only 10 weeks ago, that this was just her sixth competitive round in five months or even that last week she escaped from a burning hotel. Players just don't shoot 30 for the feared back nine here. Men, women, supermums, fire heroines... whoever.

Indeed, the Scot's inward half of seven-under in the second round of the Ricoh Women's British Open can be considered one of the most remarkable of this golfing year so far. Certainly it contained the most remarkable six-hole stretch. Matthew, who turns 40 in three weeks' time, arrived on the 11th tee, two-over for the day. By the 17th tee she was five-under for the day. This was as close to golfing binary as it is surely possible to get.

It began with an eagle on the par-five when she clipped in a rescue wood from 214 yards to six feet and she was to add further birdies on the 13th, 15th and 16th. Yet by then the showstopper had already occurred on the par-three 12th. An eight-iron from 152 yards was perfectly floated. "It just popped in," said Matthew. Yes it did. Three months after Sophie had popped out.

The upshot was that Matthew, courtesy of this 67, grasped the clubhouse lead on three-under, alongside the Italian Giulia Sergas. Together with that honour came the pleasure of knowing that nobody, of either sex, had ever gone lower on the Lytham back nine in competition. Fair enough, the wind had switched direction from Thursday and was assisting rather than resisting. But, still. This was special.

"It was one of my best nines, yeah," said Matthew, who took 10 putts in her oh so notable nine. "And I missed a six-footer on 17 as well. So, not too bad."

As you can probably tell, the lady from North Berwick is not the most demonstrative. "I don't feel like Superwoman, no," she said. "This birth was slightly easier than the first two years ago. I mean, it doesn't take too long to get back into it."

In fact, it took Matthew just five weeks to start practising and then another four weeks to play her first event; last week's Evian Masters on the French side of Lake Geneva. As any new parent will confirm, what Matthew needed was sleep. But on the eve of the event, she was awoken by what she believed was a rainstorm. Her husband, Graeme – who also doubles up as her caddie – was on the balcony when she called him. "I said to him, 'Wow, listen to that rain'," explained Matthew. "He came in and said, 'What are you talking about?' The noise got louder and louder and when we eventually opened the door it was just flames and smoke everywhere."

The pair decided to run through the sprinklers, screaming "fire, fire" as they did so. "In the panic Graeme forgot to put his shoes on and burnt his foot and we lost a lot of our stuff, maybe two thirds of our clothes," revealed Matthew. "But we were just thankful we were on our own. If we had all been there, with our two daughters, we would have been so exhausted we would have been asleep. Fortunately, it was only the two of us."

Relief was the overwhelming emotion of that scary night. Just after the Matthews had got out, the porch roof collapsed. Meanwhile, Amy Yang, the South Korean professional, was on an upper floor (the Matthews were on the first) and threw her mattress off the balcony before jumping on to it safely.

A tragedy had been averted, but the incident inevitably hit the Tour hard. Some of the pros talked of being in shock and for Matthew it must have been particularly unsettling. But she shrugged it off, just as she made light of the after-effects of childbirth. "When I came back from having my first, Katie, I finished second and third on my first two outings," she laughed. "Maybe I started having babies too late."

Matthew's is an impressive tale and inevitably overshadowed all others yesterday. Michelle Wie was far from despondent despite a 76 which left her five-over. "I'm playing well," she said. With Supermum in this form, "well" might not be good enough.

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