Marvellous Manassero gives Poulter a run for his money
Matteo Manassero reaches new heights almost every week of his burgeoning career and, despite missing out on a second title in less than a month yesterday, the Italian teenager was happy to reflect on a remarkable rookie season.
The 17-year-old rewrote the European Tour record books as he stormed to a maiden victory at the Castello Masters in Spain last month and at the Hong Kong Golf Club yesterday he fell just one shot short of chasing down Ian Poulter, despite an eight-under-par 62 which earned a share of second place alongside former champion Simon Dyson.
Manassero, who was 17 years and 188 days when he triumphed in Spain to beat the record set by New Zealand's Danny Lee (18 years and 213 days when at the 2008 Johnnie Walker Classic), now looks to this week's season-ending Dubai World Championship after securing a place in the top 60 on the order of merit.
'Everything has really gone quickly this year and I have surpassed my goals and expectations. You take everything and more as it comes, it's great,' said the 2009 British Amateur Championship winner. 'Dubai is going to be a great week after achieving a place in the top 60. It's been a great year and a great way to finish.'
Manassero began the day six shots adrift of Poulter and seemingly out of the hunt, but kept within sight with three birdies on the front nine before a timely eagle at the par-four 13th caused heads to turn.
A birdie at the 15th quickly arrived before Manassero - with Poulter watching from the adjoining 13th green - came agonisingly close to a second eagle on the penultimate hole as his eight iron rolled within inches of the cup. It set up a tap-in birdie to move briefly level with Poulter, but just moments later the Englishman holed a 15-foot eagle putt to create a two-shot lead with five to play.
When the Italian missed a 10-foot birdie chance on the final green, it allowed Poulter the luxury of being able to drop a shot on the same hole 20 minutes later.
'It was a fantastic day for me. I started quite far behind, Poulter was 19 [under] and I was 13. I didn't hole as many putts during the third round as I should have, but the last round was more like the second as I played even better in the final stretch. I'm very happy with the way I tried to catch the leaders,' added Manassero, who posted rounds of 67-63-67-62 on his Hong Kong Open debut.
Dyson made the early running with three birdies and a chip-in eagle, but after a bogey at eight, the 2000 champion could only manage one further birdie as a third consecutive 65 fell just short, although it did hand the former Asian Tour Order of Merit winner his best finish of the season.
'I'm disappointed. I just didn't hole a thing on the back nine. The bogey on eight kind of stopped me in my tracks,' said Dyson, who also heads to Dubai after managing four other top-10 finishes this season.
'I had a good chance on every hole on the back nine ... they just didn't want to drop. It's still a great week. And it's good to take into the last tournament of the year.'