Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari head the home challenge at this week’s 70th Open D’Italia Lindt, which will be played at Molinari’s ‘home’ course, Golf Club Torino.
Together with elder brother Edoardo, who is missing through injury, the Ryder Cup star honed his game at Golf Club Torino, which was founded in 1920 and hosted the Open d’Italia Lindt in 1999.
Molinari will be bidding this week to win his national Open for the second time, having prevailed at Castello di Tolcinasco G&CC in 2006 when, aged 23 years and 180 days, he became the youngest winner of the event since it joined The European Tour in 1972.
That was the first of Molinari’s three European Tour victories – a figure surpassed by Manassero earlier this year when he became the youngest winner of the Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.
It was the latest record broken by one of the globe’s brightest golfing prospects, and the 20 year old from Verona will now aim to reach yet another milestone in his burgeoning career by succeeding Molinari as the tournament’s youngest champion.
Manassero made his professional debut in the Open D’Italia Lindt aged just 17 years and 18 days in 2010, in the process making history by becoming the youngest pro to make the cut in a European Tour event.
He would eventually finished in a tie for 29th place and has improved year on year since then, finishing eighth in 2011 and joint third last year.
Manassero said: “Of course I feel extra pressure to perform well whenever I play in the Italian Open, but it’s a nice kind of pressure. Last year, when I finished third, it was an amazing experience and a fantastic atmosphere, and hopefully this week will be the same.
“Outside the Majors it’s obviously the week I look forward to most, and this year is no different. Golf is getting bigger in Italy all the time, and I’m sure this week will show how popular it is. It’s very exciting to be a part of that.”
Since the Open d’Italia Lindt, which was first played in 1925, joined The European Tour International Schedule, no player has mounted a successful defence of the title, but two-time champion Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño will be bidding to buck that trend this week.
Should he triumph in Turin, the Spaniard – who first prevailed at Castello di Tolcinasco in 2007 – would also become the first player to win the event three times since it became part of The European Tour.
Other notable names in the line-up include two-time US Open Champion Retief Goosen of South Africa, who is making his first appearance in the tournament
since 1999, when he finished in a tie for sixth place; and his fellow Major winner David Duval of America, the 2001 Open Champion.
The Open d’Italia Lindt, which carries a prize fund of €1.5million, is one of only seven tournaments to have been played every year since the formation of The European Tour.