Matteo Manassero: A Stepping Stone Win

Matteo Manassero manhandled the weather and a strong European Tour field to win one of their biggest tournaments of the year, the BMW PGA Championship at the venerable Wentworth Club just outside of London, England.

To revisit just how bad the first two days’ weather was, see “How To Handle Yourself When Things Go Wrong,” the third vignette the story of how the best players in the world — Rory, G-Mac, Luke and Poults —  missed the cut.

But not only did the young Italian handle the weather, he handled the 3-man playoff that went four holes. He beat Englishman, Simon Khan and Scot, Marc Warren. As another measure of the difficulty of the conditions — the weather, the course, et. al. — they had finished at just 10-under par. 

I first became aware of Manassero when he was invited to play in the Masters as a 16-year-old. He was the youngest player ever to win the British Amateur and ended up at the top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Astonishingly, he went on to make the cut. That age record has since been eclipsed by 12-year-old, Guan Tianlang this year.

His play was just as bright after he turned pro, winning in his first full year on tour. That first year got him inside the Top 64 in the World Golf Rankings and that got him into the 2011 Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, where I first saw him in person. He dispatched Steve Stricker, 2&1 in the first round, Charl Schwartzel 1-up, in the second and held his own against Luke Donald before losing 3&2.

What was most impressive about that outing and the less successful ones in 2012 and 2013, was his ball-striking. With all the natural motions of youth, he gets back through the ball in this sort of effortless ballet that is mesmerizing. It’s hard to choose between his motion and his ball flight.

So now, after his 4th win on the European Tour, Manassero has vaulted 29 spots and is now World No. 28. As such, he gets into any big-time tournament in the world…and garners the attention his stellar play so richly deserves.

One wonders whether, in time, he too will migrate to the U.S. as so many other stars on the European Tour have in order to play both tours. Most of them, however, have come from the northern climes, so it will be interesting to see over the unfolding events, just how much Italy proves to be a lifestyle choice.

For more, plus a nice photo, see CBS’ Eye On Golf story, “Matteo Manassero has more wins at age 20 than Tiger or Rory.

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