Manassero produces magic in the mountains

9/2/2010 12:52:18 PM
Matteo Manassero  (Getty Images)
Matteo Manassero (Getty Images)
Seventeen year old Matteo Manassero gave Italian golf yet another boost by setting the early clubhouse target at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.

With brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari now on countdown to The Ryder Cup, Manassero underlined his rich promise with a sparkling seven under par 64.

“What Edoardo did was pretty unbelievable,” said Manassero. “You don’t see that very often to win a championship and then to be picked for The Ryder Cup with his brother was something to inspire everybody, not just me.

“I played nine holes with him in practice. He seems very relaxed now and calm and I expect him to play good this week. He is in the best moment of his life, just won a championship, made The Ryder Cup Team; it’s been a fantastic year for him.

“I hope that more young Italians will take up golf. We hope that obviously that many, many more guys will come through.

“It’s very good to have two top players in the world and Ryder Cup players that are close to you, come from the same country and introduce you to that life. It was lucky for me. I will always respect them.”

Playing his 13th European Tour event, but only his sixth as a professional, the Verona teenager led English duo Steve Webster and Robert Coles and Thailand's Chapchai Nirat by two.

“I played really nicely, had a few chances on the back nine but didn’t take them,” said Webster. “Overall, it’s a good start. I played well in the Czech Republic but played terrible last week and missed the cut so I decided not to pick up a club again until I got here.“

In the group three back, meanwhile, were Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jiménez.

“The finish was nice,” said Clarke. “Gave myself lots of chances but couldn’t make anything. I’ve had a couple of weeks off and if you make a mistake here you are going to struggle.

“The course is different now - it’s a challenge and even in very benign conditions, if you make a mistake you can be in trouble. You need to be clever to pick your way round.” 

A brilliant 13th in last year's Open Championship soon after he had become the youngest-ever British Amateur Champion, Manassero joined the paid ranks after finishing 36th at The Masters Tournament in April.

That entitled him to seven invitations to try to earn enough to avoid the need to attend November's Qualifying School.

This is the sixth of those seven and while he has done well to make the cut in all the previous five, he probably needs a top five finish either now or at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship next month.

Manassero did not drop a stroke all day and after turning in 33 added further birdies on the first, third, sixth, seventh and ninth.

“It was the perfect round,” said Manassero. “I didn’t miss many greens and when I did I recovered well with up and downs. I don’t think I could have expected better.

“I think seven under is the best. I think I shot a six under in Geneva but this is definitely one of my best rounds since I turned pro and I think it is the lowest.

“I have this and the Dunhill Links which is the last of seven invites and my last chance to get a card through the main Tour but I also have a chance through The Challenge Tour as well.”

That front nine 31 was not the best of the day, though. Swede Mikael Lundberg did it in 30 and a hole in one at the third earned him a bar of gold valued at €23,000, but he then came home in 39.

Clarke, one of Colin Montgomerie's Vice Captains at The Celtic Manor Resort from October 1-3, finished with a 30 foot birdie putt, while Jiménez, looking forward to his fourth cap against the Americans, had six birdies and two bogeys as he began his 22nd successive attempt to win the title at Crans-sur-Sierre.

“A 67 is good – anything under par is good here,” said Jiménez. “My secret is drinking good wine and sleeping well!

“I still love the game and enjoy it. Now it is more relaxing after the pressure of trying to make The Ryder Cup team. Thank goodness that is finished and I have much more freedom. I love to come here in the Alps; it’s very relaxing. I will take next week off and then play Austria before The Ryder Cup.”

Cup teammate Edoardo Molinari, whose win at Gleneagles on Sunday was the final proof Montgomerie needed to hand him a wild card, was among the later starters.

He was playing with 55 year old Australian Greg Norman, finally returning to action almost a year after shoulder surgery.