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Honma Hong Kong Open

Starting from zero: Matteo Manassero hoping to reignite his career in Hong Kong

After an extended stretch in the doldrums, Italian golfer believes his game has turned the corner and he is ready to rise

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 November, 2017, 11:37am

Matteo Manassero knows a thing or two about high expectations. At just 16, the Italian became the youngest player to make the cut at the US Masters in 2010.

The amateur was already on every golf fan’s radar; the youngest ever to win the British Amateur Championship in 2009, earning the British Open Silver Medal soon afterwards, and cementing himself as the number one ranked amateur in the game. The world was at his feet.

The records kept coming after the prodigy turned pro one year later. “Manny” was at it again – the youngest to win a European Tour event, almost adding to his tally at the 2010 UBS Hong Kong Open, where he finished one stroke behind winner Ian Poulter.

He chalked up four European Tour victories in four years, but has not won since the 2013 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Now 24, Manassero brushes off any remaining “weight on [his] shoulders” after making the cut at the 2017 Hong Kong Open by one shot with scores of 72 and 69.

“Things have changed,” he said. “This year is like starting from zero.”

The seven-year gap between his Hong Kong exploits were riddled with missed cuts – making only six in 22 in a particularly unfortunate 2015 – and a huge drop in the world rankings. He sits at 363rd but hopes to get back to his career high of 43.

“I could say this is a restart for me in many ways,” said Manassero, who finished in 114th place in the Race to Dubai last season. “I just have to try to bring the best out of my game and fight when I need to fight.”

And fight he will as he charges into the weekend and hopes to make an impression at the first event on the new European Tour season.

“This course allows you to score. If I can do that tomorrow, we’ll get closer to the top 20. This year, the Race to Dubai is the target. If I could improve a couple of things in my long game, then I think it could be good.”

Having shared the course with some of Hong Kong’s top young talents over the past couple of days, Manassero was more than willing to hand over some nuggets of advice.

“I’ve been on tour so much that I’m old already,” he joked. “But it’s about enjoying those times and not trying to put too much pressure on yourself to improve – just let things come.

“If you’re young, remember you have so much time ahead so you don’t need to push hard. Improve slowly. Enjoy the young times. They are really, really good.”