It’s hard to believe that former BMW PGA Champion Matteo Manassero is actually the third lowest-ranked player in the Olympic Golf men’s field…

The global nature of Olympic Golf qualification was always going to see a host of names that most golf fans have never heard of making the field, and if you fancy a speculative punt on a rank outsider, you can check out their seemingly unlikely prospects here.

But in a field of 60 men – about a quarter of whom even relatively keen golf fans would struggle to pick out in an identity parade – the identity of the third ‘worst’ player in the field (based purely on World Ranking) will come as a bit of a surprise. Only Jose-Filipe Lima of Portugal (405th) and Rodolfo Cazaubon of Mexico (381st) have a lower World Ranking than one-time next-superstar-in-waiting, Matteo Manassero, who is ranked 338th (30 places lower than Italian Olympic teammate, Nino Bertasio).

Just to remind ourselves how surprising this is, here is a list of Matteo’s golfing achievements:-

* Youngest winner of Amateur Championship in 2009 at 16 years of age.

* Silver Medallist for low amateur in the 2009 Open at Turnberry (finished 13th).

* Youngest player to make the cut in The Masters in 2010 (since surpassed by Guan Tianlang).

* Youngest ever winner on the European Tour in October 2010’s Castello Masters.

* Second youngest ever winner on the European Tour when he won the 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open.

* First ever teenager to win three times on the European Tour when he won the 2012 Barclays Singapore Open.

* 2013 BMW PGA Champion

* Highest ever World Ranking of 25th

Manassero with the BMW PGA Championship trophy in 2013

Manassero with the BMW PGA Championship trophy in 2013

That’s a mighty impressive list, and many just expected him to keep getting better and better. He ranked 31st on the Order of Merit in his first two seasons, climbing to 13th in 2012 and 11th in 2013. But then things started to slip – he finished 60th in 2014, then plummeted to 167th in 2015, missing 15 straight cuts from the BMW PGA Championship that year until the Dubai Desert Classic this year.

Confidence had disintegrated, and he was at a very low ebb. The former World No.25 ended 2015 ranked 635th, but thankfully, things have taken a turn back in the right direction since then: a couple of Top 30s in China and then Morocco; 12th in the Nordea Masters; 13th in the BMW International; and then finally a heartwarming 3rd in the Scottish Open to scoop just under €200,000 – his first top ten since the same event precisely two years earlier.

Same outfit: similar form - en route to 3rd in Scotland this year, his first top ten for two years

Same outfit: similar form – en route to 3rd in Scotland this year, his first top ten for two years

Now the young Italian has the chance to really send his confidence sprialling once more by doing something special at the Rio Olympics. It could be just the catalyst he needs to put him back where he once seemed to naturally belong among the most promising young talents in the game.

He may be the third lowest-ranked player in the Olympic field, but based on his current improved form and his exceptional past track record, he could just be one to watch down in Rio.