Manassero and Molinari lead the Italian charge (Getty Images)
Matteo Manassero admits he is still “amazed” by his meteoric rise - but insists he is learning all the time to cope with life at the top of the game.
The 18-year-old Italian will find himself in the spotlight once again this week during the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi at the Royal Park I Roveri, the tournament where he began his professional career last year.
If Manassero carries the hopes of his home nation alongside Francesco Molinari, he also knows he must meet the expectations that have grown in proportion to his performances over the past 12 months.
In lifting the CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar, he became the youngest winner in the history of The European Tour, to which he added the Maybank Malaysian Open this year. All before he turned 18.
Asked if the speed of his progress has surprised him, Manassero revealed: “Absolutely. Everything happened really fast - much faster than I thought.
“I didn’t expect to achieve two wins at this stage. I have to say it was very fast. Sometimes I am amazed it happened so fast.
“I manage expectations a bit better now. Last year it was totally new. People in Italy knew my amateur career and were expecting me to perform in professional golf, so it was tough last year when I didn't know what would happen.
“Now I am more used to the life on Tour and I know what goes on. I have had to grow up quickly and learn quickly.
“I have gained experience and confidence from playing well and seeing I can make cuts and score well even if not playing so good.”
There was further evidence of Manassero’s prodigious talent at last month’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, when he shared the lead heading into the final round.
He fell away on the last day as Luke Donald emerged victorious following a play-off with Lee Westwood, but the teenager sees it all as part of his learning curve.
“It was great to find myself in the position of leading after three rounds,” he said. “It wasn’t good the way it ended up but it was a tremendous learning experience playing with the world’s first and second ranked players. I have to say I grew up after that.
“I am getting used to being in that position, which is so important. I played three days well and one day not so good. After just one year of professional golf it was still a good achievement.”
Molinari is another who will line up tomorrow shouldering the hopes of the home crowd, particularly having won the event in 2006.
“It does increase the pressure a little bit, but it's important to forget all about that stuff once you get on the course,” he said. “That’s the way I view it - just get out and play my best and hope for the right result on Sunday night.
“It’s intense but very nice to come back home and see all the interest from the Italian and the media and fans.
“The atmosphere is different and that’s good for golf in Italy. It helps the game and all of us. Golf has never been big in Italy in the past and it would be great for it to become one of the bigger sports after football.”
As the reigning champion, Fredrik Andersson Hed also holds fond memories of this course.
He hopes returning to the scene of his two shot triumph last year will provide the impetus for an upturn in form.
“It’s going to be a great week; it’s a great place to come back to,” the Swede said.
“Unfortunately I have played pretty bad the last couple of months, so I’m not coming in with a good feeling. But hopefully that could change around with good feelings from last year.”