Our series of behind-the-scenes profiles from Royal Liverpool continue with the professional golfer, Matteo Manassero.
Matteo Manassero, who shot 67, five under par, to take the early clubhouse lead at Royal Liverpool today, is the youngest golfer to have done most things in golf.
Apart from numerous European Tour records, the Italian became the youngest British Amateur Champion at the age of 16 and two months in 2009, after which he finished in a tie for 13th at the Open at Turnberry, to become the youngest winner of the Open’s Silver Medal for the low amateur.
Manassero played the first two rounds with Tom Watson that year – aged 59 at the time and when he nearly won – and the spectacle of the two playing side by side – with 43 years separating their ages – captivated the sporting world and beautifully illustrated one of golf’s greatest merits; being the ultimate sport for players of all ages to enjoy together.
That was a golfing fairytale at Turnberry, but since then, Manassero’s Open career has turned into a pumpkin.
He failed to qualify in 2010, missed the cut in 2011, he was the last alternate not to get into the field at Lytham in 2012 – having travelled from Verona at the last minute just in case – and he missed the cut at Muirfield last year. Awful.
“I didn’t ever get in really good shape at this time of year,” starts Manassero, now 21, in considering his Open disappointments after his round today.
“In fact, it’s not a time of the year in which I’ve done really well in general, in every season. At Turnberry I was in really good form; I just won the British Amateur and I was playing really, really well, and in 2009 I was playing so much links golf as an amateur.
“But when you don’t arrive at golf courses like this in form, it’s just so difficult to even stay for the weekend.”
Manassero points to his appearance last week at the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen as ideal preparation.
“I decided to play three weeks in a row this year,” explains Manassero, who finished tied for 48th in the French Open, and then tied for fourth at the Scottish.
“I played some really nice rounds in the French Open, which was a good sign, and then my main preparation for the Open was at Royal Aberdeen.
“It was just the best preparation I could have had. We had difference wind directions and the course was firm, so I was able to put myself into a links frame of mind.
“I was really thinking ‘links’ when I got here and that was very important, and I knew that once I got here all that I could do wrong was to over practice.”
At the time of writing, Manassero sits in second place, a shot behind Rory McIlroy, who has just completed a first round of 66.
Robin Barwick travelled to the Open Championship courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz is global sponsor of the Masters, patron of the Open Championship and official car of the PGA Championship