Much has happened to Matteo Manassero since his last visit to Crans-sur-Sierre 12 months ago but the remarkable Italian teenager still credits his third place in the 2010 Omega European Masters as the most significant week of his fledgling career to date.
It is almost hard to believe that Manassero, now a two-time European Tour Champion and World Number 30, was battling to secure a European Tour card when he arrived in Switzerland last year.
Playing on an invite, an opening day 64 gave him the first round lead and subsequent rounds of 67, 69 and 68 saw him finish five strokes behind winner Miguel Angel Jiménez and two behind compatriot Edoardo Molinari.
More significantly, however, Manassero’s cheque of €125,200 took his season’s earnings to €255,383, guaranteeing him starts for the rest of the 2010 season and effectively sealed his card for 2011.
That proved the catalyst for his subsequent success and rapid rise up the Official World Golf Ranking as, with the pressure off, the then 17 year old went on to become the youngest winner in European Tour history just two months later at the Castéllo Masters Costa Azahar.
While that victory saw the youngster re-write the record books, he has the Omega European Masters circled in his diary as an even more momentous week in his life and as he returns to the Swiss mountains for this week’s Omega European Masters, he has nothing but fond memories.
“Crans is a special place for me,” he said. “It was my first podium finish on The European Tour and to get my card with that was great. It was an exciting experience and I am glad to be back here with people now thinking I can win the event.
“There are some more expectations this year but I’m looking forward to it. Last year I was trying to get my card from seven events on the Challenge Tour or seven invites on The European Tour and I was planning to go to Kazakhstan and Russia on the Challenge Tour after this event but I didn’t need to as I’d sealed my card.
“It was an important performance for me in that respect. It’s probably the most important week of my career. If you had to pick one week it was probably even more important than my win because it made my year easier. It took a lot of pressure off me and actually got me into the Castéllo Masters, which I won.
“You could say everything started from here. It was a big boost of confidence for me and I thought I could go on to do even better. I never expected to come back here a year on and have achieved what I have though. Finishing third here and the year I went on to have has really changed my life.”
With those memories still fresh in his mind, Manassero, who captured his second European Tour title in the Maybank Malaysian Open in April two days before his 18th birthday, believes he can better his third place of last year when he tees it up alongside Open Champion Darren Clarke an Czech Open winner Oliver Fisher this week.
“It is a course that suits me well,” he said. “It is a tight course and you hit a lot of wedges in to the greens and you need to be very precise and putt well. You will get a lot of birdie chances.
“I’m feeling very confident this year. Last year was great finishing third and getting my card and with Edoardo second people are expecting a lot of us this year. It’s an even better field this year so it will be hard but I am really excited about it.
“There is an extra energy here that I can feel and I hope to do well again.”
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