Teenage star Matteo Manassero carded an impressive five under par 67 to grab a share of the lead in the Rolex Trophy at Golf Club de Genève in Switzerland.
The Italian shone with seven birdies to reach 11 under par for the tournament, level with Frenchman Alex Kaleka, who fired a six under par 66 earlier in the day. The pair lead Swede Pelle Edberg and Norway’s Marius Thorp, who shot 69 and 67 respectively, by one shot.
Manassero, playing under a sponsor’s invitation to join the top 40 players in the Challenge Tour Rankings, made a fine start with back-to-back birdies in his opening two holes, and he picked up two more shots before the turn.
A bogey at the 14th halted his progress, and although he birdied the next three in a row, a bogey five at the 18th prevented him from taking the outright lead.
“I didn’t hole all the putts but I’m happy that I’m making chances,” said Manassero, who won the Silver Medal as the highest-placed amateur in The 2009 Open Championship and became the youngest player in history to make the cut at the Masters Tournament in April. “It was a little disappointing to finish with a bogey but overall I’m very happy with my game.”
Asked if he felt more pressure playing a Challenge Tour event given all he has already achieved in his burgeoning career, Manassero replied: “No, not really. My aim is to get my European Tour card for 2011 so there is pressure every week, whether it’s on the main Tour or the Challenge Tour. There is no more pressure this week.
“My goal is to win in any tournament I play, whatever tour it is on. I’m enjoying it here and I think I can win. I’m playing well and I’m confident.”
The Rolex Trophy is played in a pro-am format, where each professional plays with a junior amateur in the first round, then with a group of three amateurs for the next three rounds. It is one of the most competitive events on the Challenge Tour schedule as only the top 40 from the Rankings are in the field, plus two invitations, and the prize fund is €218,000.
Kaleka’s round featured four consecutive birdies on the back nine, his front nine, before three more in a row from the fifth.
“I’m very pleased to have two rounds back to back like this,” said Kaleka, who won on his Challenge Tour debut last year at the ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon. “I played in this event last year which helps because I’m used to the format and know the course. I’m hitting the ball very nicely and I hope I can continue to do so for the next two rounds.
“I was lucky to have three good guys in my group today who all played very well which kept the rhythm going. Sometimes it is hard if you play with someone who is struggling as it’s difficult to maintain momentum. Since my win last year I’ve had quite a few top tens and top fives but not won, so it would be great to this week.”
Edberg, chasing his maiden Challenge Tour victory, had a mixed round with three bogeys and five birdies but was happy overall.
“If you told me at the start of the week I’d be ten under after two rounds I would definitely have taken that,” he said. “I had a pretty rough start but then a birdie at the fifth got me going a bit. I’m hitting really good tee shots which means I don’t have very far for my second shots but I’m not taking advantage enough. It was nice to finish with two birdies though.
“But when you are out there and playing well it feels like you should be scoring better. I enjoyed it though. I played with three good guys and it was pretty relaxed and good fun."