Young gun Manassero's game on fire

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 November, 2010, 12:00am

Matteo Manassero yesterday waltzed off the course with the air of a man without a care in the world. And well he might.

The 17-year-old Italian had just completed a near-perfect round - a bogey-free 63 that saw him storm up the cluttered leaderboard and put himself firmly in contention at 10-under as the weekend awaits.

You might think the youngster's head would be spinning after the year he has had. His first professional title came last month when he took out the Castello Masters Costa Azahar in Valencia, Spain, by four strokes and he has come to Hong Kong for the first time with nearly Euro690,000 tucked away in his bank account. But the quiet confidence the Italian exudes is all down to that win, he revealed.

'It's grown a lot,' Manassero said of his faith in his game. 'Obviously, the victory is the thing that gives you more confidence in this life.'

Manassero unseated Danny Lee as the youngest-ever winner on the European Tour when he won in Spain - at just 17 years and 188 days old (Lee was 18 years and 213 days old when he won the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2009).

But Manassero has taken to the course at Fanling like he's been playing it all his life, carving up five straight birdies from the 10th to the 14th. And he admitted he did feel quite at home.

'You don't have to always hit a driver off the tee and carry bunkers 280 yards. They are the kind of golf courses that suit me better,' he said.

Manessero also revealed he had been receiving the odd call from one of the game's greats - American Tom Watson - as his career has progressed. The pair first met when they played together at the 2009 British Open at Turnberry.

'He's been in touch,' Manassero said. 'He takes care of me.''

And the youngster said he was already getting accustomed to the grind of life as a professional golfer.

'It's part of the life,' he said of the almost constant travel. 'So you have to get more used to it. One thing is that everybody takes care of everything for us, which is obviously very important.'

That, of course, leaves Manessero time to focus on his game, which is shaping nicely heading into the final two rounds.

'Well I don't expect too much from myself,' he said. 'I think I'm in a very good moment. I'm confident. I'm playing good golf. On the golf course, fortunately, I have no thoughts and fears.''