Matteo Manassero, the 2009 Amateur Champion and Open Championship Silver Medallist at Turnberry, has added the Masters Tournament Silver Cup to a list of achievements which, at the age of 16, equals those of any Major Champion, past or present, at a comparative stage in their career.
Having become the youngest player to compete at Augusta and the only amateur since 2005 to make the cut, Manassero completed rounds of 73 and 72 to finish tied for 36th place on four over par, ahead of the likes of Zach Johnson and Mike Weir, both former winners of the Green Jacket.
“It feels great,” said the teenager from Verona. “I’m playing good, I’m getting better, so I’m happy. I can't play much better than this. I maybe left on the course some birdie chances. I made two bogeys, but I finished with a good birdie - that's a good memory."
“[The experience] will definitely help me to be comfortable with this crowd and understand I can compete with these guys.”
The current World Amateur Golf Ranking Number One has already won plenty of admirers, from the patrons lining the fairways to multiple Major winners, all of whom have been impressed by how naturally the young Italian plays the game. It is that fluidity of swing, along with his looks and his smile, which has led many to draw comparisons with Seve Ballesteros, the Spaniard who Manassero has idolised since he first picked up a golf club at the age of three.
“I love the positions of his golf swing and his wonderful touch,” said five-time Open Champion Tom Watson, Manassero’s playing partner for the opening two rounds at Turnberry. Sir Nick Faldo, a man who triumphed three times at Augusta, added: “He has the most beautiful arm swing I have ever seen."
Manassero will now make the transition to the professional game before next month’s Italian Open as a seventeen year old, still less than half the age of the 2010 Masters Champion, Phil Mickelson. His coach and caddie Alberto Binaghi, himself a former Tour player, insists that his student is under no illusions about what lies ahead.
“[He] is not a guy who's going to get excited or carried away about where he is," said Binaghi. "He's a good amateur player, but if you're going to be a good pro, he knows he has to work hard for the next 20-25 years."
But it seems certain that Manassero, who has achieved so much as an amateur, with so much grace, will continue in that vein as a professional.
“His age is not a problem," said his father, Roberto. “What's important is that he's tranquil. Matteo is not a self-absorbed person. I see with all the attention he's getting at tournaments, he's still the same Matteo.”