Catriona Matthew, Europe’s Solheim Cup captain, stood behind the 18th green at Carnoustie on Sunday as the final group finished in the Scottish sunshine. After Anna Nordqvist prevailed with a par, while Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen suffered a double-bogey on the cruel finisher, Matthew reached up to deliver a warm, smiling hug to the Swede. It was a congratulations for the win, but felt like something more: a welcome to the European squad that will take on the United States in two weeks’ time at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

The captain’s picks for both 12-women sides will be announced overnight, Australian time, but Nordqvist won’t have to nervously wait on them. By becoming the top-ranked European in the world with her third Major victory, the 34-year-old earned an automatic spot for her seventh Solheim Cup appearance.

Koerstz Madsen, meantime, gave Matthew something to ponder. The Dane, who fell into a tie for fifth in the AIG Women’s Open with her final-hole travails, moved up to fourth on the Ladies European Tour Solheim Cup points list. That doesn’t earn Koerstz Madsen the automatic spot secured by the first two LET finishers, but she certainly made a strong case on the heels of her ninth-place showing in the Tokyo Olympics.

Beyond Nordqvist, Georgia Hall made the biggest statement to Matthew. Needing a top-10 result to guarantee a Solheim spot, the Englishwoman closed with a 67 at Carnoustie for a T-2. That powered Hall into the LET’s No.2 position and secured her third Solheim Cup appearance. Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen had the most LET points, and she’ll be on her second Europe team.

Both teams entered the Women’s Open week with the final positions to be decided before the captains made their selections. The US and captain Pat Hurst have seven players coming off the American points list, another two from the Rolex Women’s Golf World Ranking, and three captain’s picks. Europe’s team will be comprised of the two from the LET, four from the world ranking and six captain’s picks.

After the Open, Europe’s world ranking qualifiers are Nordqvist, Germany’s Sophia Popov, England’s Charley Hull and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda.

The US automatic points qualifiers, in order of their finish, are Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Ally Ewing, Austin Ernst, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda and Megan Khang.

Lizette Salas needed a victory in the Women’s Open to jump into America’s automatic top seven, and she nearly pulled it off by finishing T-2, one shot behind Nordqvist. Still, Salas, who entered the week 25th in the world, made her fifth Solheim team on the strength of her ranking. The official rankings are not yet updated, but the LPGA said that Jennifer Kupcho earned her first Solheim spot. Kupcho, a Solheim Cup first-timer, started the week ranked 27th in the world. Yealimi Noh was 29th but applied pressure in the Open with a T-13, while Kupcho placed 64th out of 66 players on the weekend.

Come the announcement of the captain’s picks, 20-year-old Noh figures to get strong consideration by Hurst. Veteran Stacy Lewis, 57th in the world ranking before the Open, looks to be a logical choice, and maybe Brittany Altomare, who was eighth on the US points list. Other potential picks for Hurst would be Angel Yin, Marina Alex, Amy Olson and Lauren Stephenson.

With six picks still to make, Matthew’s day is going to be much more thought-provoking. Beyond the result of Koerstz Madsen in the Women’s Open, Swede Madelene Sagstrom tied for second. Mel Reid, at 47th in the world entering the Open, figures to be a near-lock, with strong pre-pick chatter about Matilda Castren, Leona Maguire and Celine Boutier.

For both teams, there are far more quality players than there are Solheim Cup honours. This is where it gets interesting.

PHOTO: Warren Little/R&A