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Sunday, 17 April 2011
Matteo Manassero - Maybank Malaysian Open Champion  (Getty Images)
Matteo Manassero - Maybank Malaysian Open Champion (Getty Images)

Matteo Manassero earned himself a €288,465 birthday present with his second European Tour win at the Maybank Malaysian Open.

The Italian, who turns 18 on Tuesday, started the celebrations early as a closing 68 helped him finish 16 under and see off challenges from Grégory Bourdy and Rory McIlroy.

“I couldn’t imagine anything better – going back home to celebrate my 18th birthday and my second victory on The European Tour,” he said, after climbing to 33rd on the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I’ll have a big dinner and celebrate both.

“It’s great to be able to celebrate both together. I’m just now concentrating on being in the top 50 now and getting into all the Majors. I’m very happy about this achievement.”

Having become The European Tour's youngest ever winner in Spain last year, Manassero now holds the top two positions on that list - Danny Lee was seven months older when he won the Johnnie Walker Classic.

He is also the second teenager in a row to win the event, following Noh Seung-yul's triumph 12 months ago. 

The leaders had 27 holes to play on the final day after six hours of weather delays earlier in the week, with McIlroy immediately extending his two shot overnight advantage to three with a birdie at the par five tenth.

But the 21 year old Northern Irishman was passed by Manassero and Alex Noren before the end of the third round after dropping two shots at the short 15th.

Manassero, on the other hand, birdied both par threes on the back nine for a 67 that left him 12 under with a round to go alongside Noren - who had driven the green at the par four 16th and eagled.

Bourdy produced his second electric start of the weekend when the final round teed off - having birdied five of the first six in his third round he reeled off four in a row from the third.

A dropped shot at the eighth and a double bogey three holes later looked to have cost the Frenchman, but the three-time European Tour winner posted three birdies on the way in to set the clubhouse target at 15 under.

McIlroy was right in contention with three birdies in four holes around the turn, but three-putted the 12th for a double bogey which looked to have ended his chances.

Manassero had one birdie courtesy of a drawn approach to six feet at the second in an outward 35, but when he holed his approach to the par five tenth for eagle he was level with Bourdy.

An eight foot birdie putt at the next put him ahead, but he missed a six footer for par at the next.

He coolly converted a downhill ten footer at the 14th that left him needing to par the last four, and the former British Amateur Champion belied his tender years as he calmly set about the job without any drama.

“It feels amazing - it’s a great achievement,” said Manassero. “As I always say I could never have expected it all to have one win before I was 18 and now I’ve got two.

“I had a really good week from the beginning. I didn’t miss many shots apart from the second round when I didn’t play great but I was still able to finish well and get in contention. I had a really good weekend and managed to get the win.

“It’s a great achievement after just 11 months of professional golf. It’s a great achievement for myself and gets me into the Majors – I just missed Augusta but playing the other three will be fantastic. I’m really proud of that and the next target will be winning another tournament and keeping the momentum going. It’s going well and we’ll see what happens."

Manassero also paid tribute to Seve Ballesteros, who he described as his golfing hero.

“He is and will always be,” he added. “I grew up watching Costantino, Seve and Tiger. I thought Seve was the kind of player I wanted to be.

“The crowd was cheering for him and he was different to everyone else. He is a great person and a symbol of what a person should be. He sent me a letter after I won in Spain. That was nice.”

McIlroy briefly threatened to mount a storming comeback, holing from eight feet for birdie at the 16th and then hitting a stunning approach to within three feet at the next as he closed the gap to one.

Needing a birdie at the par five last he was on the green in three but his birdie putt never threatened the cup and by three-putting he finished third behind Bourdy.

“At this moment I’m pretty disappointed but it was a good week,” said McIlroy. “I started off really well in the tournament. To shoot the scores that I did considering the travelling is a pretty good effort.

“That little stretch of birdies were good (at the 14th, 16th and 17th). I knew I needed them.

“It was unfortunate on the last. I thought it was a good drive but I hit it on the upslope of the bunker and hit an eight iron into the green and it was a difficult putt.

“It has been a good week, I enjoyed coming to Kuala Lumpur. I’m disappointed with the result but everything else was positive. I’m proud of myself at how I picked myself up from last week and the way I came back on the back nine today.”

“Matteo is fantastic. He is a great talent -to get two wins on the European Tour before your 18th birthday is pretty special. He is great and we’ve known he is a great player. He deserves it.”

Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello matched Bourdy’s closing 67 to finish tied fourth with Noren, while Masters Tournament winner Charl Schwartzel improved to 11th over the weekend with rounds of 67 and 70. 

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MANASSERO, MatteoITA18-16
2BOURDY, GrégoryFRA18-15
3MCILROY, RoryNIR18-14
T4CABRERA-BELLO, RafaESP18-13
T4NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-13
6AGUILAR, FelipeCHI18-12
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