As he prepares for the defence of his Maybank Malaysian Open title, Matteo Manassero took time out to reflect on the importance of his victory at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club last year.
The Italian believes that capturing his second European Tour title in Asia was hugely significant to the development of an already glittering career that, at the tender age of 18, includes an Amateur Championship win, an Open Championship Silver Medal, becoming the youngest winner in European Tour history at the 2010 Castelló Masters and, of course, his Maybank Malaysian Open victory last season.
“Winning here last year was very important for me. It was my second victory, and after your first one you think that you need another one to prove to yourself and everyone that you can do it again and again,” said Manassero.
“Also to do it here in Asia, in a totally different continent and climate, a completely different golf course and conditions, it was very important for me as a player and proved a lot to me.
“I really enjoy playing in this part of the world. We have a lot of great events in China, Singapore, Hong Kong and then here and the most difficult thing to adapt to is the difference in the climates. They are all different.
“Singapore and Malaysia are the toughest to keep your energy and concentration levels up over four days, but they are all top events and you always want to do well in them.
“It is important to play out here in Asia, because it is so different, and it can only help me become a better player who can play anywhere in the world. It is also a great life experience to travel to these countries and experience the cultures in this part of the world.”
Manassero will be up against a world-class field in this week’s US$2.5 million event, co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour.
Led by Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen, last year’s Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel and the 2010 US PGA Champion Martin Kaymer, Manassero will have his work cut out to defend his title but the young Italian will be, as always, undaunted by the challenge ahead of him.
Having played nine holes of practice at the stunning Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Tuesday morning, he is confident of a repeat performance of last year, when he overcame Grégory Bourdy and Rory McIlroy on Sunday afternoon.
“The course is looking great, as always,” he said. “I just played nine holes today and will play the other nine tomorrow as I am trying to save my energy, but it looks fantastic again and I don’t think there have been any changes from last year which is what I was hoping for to be honest.
“It was nice to arrive back at the club today. It is always great to come back as a defending champion because there is definitely an extra spark to the week for you.
“You always remember the previous year’s victory, and then you always want to do well and try to defend your title. The main memory of last year has to be holing the nine iron on the tenth for eagle. That was a big moment in the final round and really helped me win the title.
“I have a good confidence level at the moment and I think I am playing the best I have done for a while, probably the last eight months or so. I finished second in Spain and then sixth in Morocco, and even though I missed the cut in Sicily a couple of weeks ago I didn’t actually play that badly. I just couldn’t score. But I am playing well and I am happy with the game – hopefully I can get into contention this week and have a chance to win it again.”