Matteo Manassero is not playing in the 2012 Open Championship this week, yet the lengths the 19-year-old Italian golfer went to, just in case a place in the Open field became available, must be chronicled.
On Wednesday afternoon, the day before the first round, American Ben Crane removed his name from the top of the list of Open reserves. This meant fellow American Michael Thompson became first reserve, and at home in Verona, Manassero received a call from the R&A at 4:30pm to say he was now second reserve.
With a slim chance that two more golfers might withdraw from the 156-man field, and with 12 hours to go before the first round began, Manassero headed for the airport.
The 2009 British Amateur champion, and subsequently the European Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2010, Manassero already has a proud Open record, having become the youngest ever winner of the Silver Medal as low amateur in the 2009 Open at Turnberry, at the age of 16, when he remarkably finished in a tie for 13th.
Manassero flew into London’s Gatwick airport – 270 miles from Royal Lytham Golf Club, but at least in the same country – and with no connecting flights available, he took a taxi from Gatwick.
Manassero finally arrived in Lytham St. Anne’s at 3:00am on Thursday with taxi fare of £400, and had time to sleep for less than two hours before he had to register in person at Royal Lytham, as is the requirement on the first day’s play.
Manassero practiced, and tried to prepare himself for a Major championship on a golf course on which he had never stepped foot in his life. Then American Russ Cochran, the 2011 Senior Open champion, withdrew. This gave Thompson his place in the Open, and shifted Manassero to first reserve.
Manassero split his time between the practice ground, putting green and Players’ Lounge, waiting for a call from the R&A. Finally, at 4:11 pm, the last group teed off in the first round, and Manassero’s epic efforts went unrewarded.
“It is not the end of the world,” said a philosophical Manassero. “These things can happen in golf, but I had to take the chance.”
More chances for Manassero in the Open will certainly follow. He will now enjoy a well-earned rest before his next tournament, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, which starts on August 9. Manassero will travel safe in the knowledge that his place in the PGA is guaranteed.
Story courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, patron of the 2012 Open Championship