A lean, mean Matteo Manassero is hoping to use the good memories of Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club to inspire another fine performance in this week’s Maybank Malaysian Open.
The Italian teenager, who won here in 2011 and finished tied seventh in 2012, spent five weeks during the off-season honing a physique to cope with the rigours of professional golf, and returns to Malaysia fitter than ever.
His new form has required a few tweaks to his swing, however, but he is confident he can deliver again in a place he feels very comfortable.
“I did a lot of running and cardio training to lose weight,” said Manassero. “I lost about six kilos. Now I’m trying to build up some strength and put some muscle on. When you lose weight it can change the feeling of the swing, especially in the change of direction.
“On the follow-through, I’m lighter so my hips are turning a little too quickly sometimes. But it’s nice because I feel better and I can produce more speed, which is what we’re working on.
“This is a place I love to come and play. The course here suits me very well. I like it a lot. I like the approaches to the greens. It’s a well-designed golf course and you need to put the ball on the fairway with the driver, rather than hit it long. That suits me. I just really enjoy the event. We stay in a really nice hotel and there’s a lot to do, so it’s a fun week and I feel very comfortable when I come here.”
Manassero must once again overcome a strong field in the Malaysian capital, which features World Number Three Luke Donald, three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington and 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel.
Schwartzel was sixth last year and would love to emulate his good friend and fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen, who won the last edition of the event, into the winner’s enclosure.
“I know I’m playing well and if I play the way I have been, I can compete in any golf tournament,” he said. “That’s as much as I can ask for. There are so many good players out there you’re not going to win every week, but if you’re there every week you’re going to break through more often. So I’m confident for this week.”
Despite the long journey from America, Schwartzel feels the US$ 2.75million tournament is well worth the trip.
“I enjoy playing different places,” he added. “I was in America for quite a few weeks and I like to break it up. It’s the way I grew up – going from South Africa I always had to travel. I don’t want to be static in one place.
“I’m very comfortable here. I like this golf course and I like the heat a lot more than the cold. The heat does get quite extreme here but it’s still better for me.”