Well before he attained the legal age to do so, Matteo Manassero had mastered the art of driving. Not a car – well, not legally at least – but a golf ball. Two days before he turned 18 last April, the Italian wunderkind won the Malaysian Open. It would have made him the youngest winner on the European Tour, had he himself not won the Castello Masters the year before at 17 years and 188 days.
By the time he landed here this week, making it a 1-2-3 on the list of Europe’s youngest winners had long become a mathematical impossibility. But by winning the Barclays Singapore Open at the Sentosa golf club here on Sunday, Manassero became the first-ever teenager to win three events on the European Tour.
Given the circumstances, it was perhaps the most challenging of ‘em all. As if weather gods forcing him to play 36 holes on a single day wasn’t enough, the youngster also had to contend with the first playoff of his professional career. Pitted against him was Louis Oosthuizen.
A win here for Oosthuizen would have stalled the Race to Dubai for at least one more week; any other result would mean world No 1 Rory McIlroy sealing the European Order of Merit. Having traded birdies with his teen opponent on the first playoff hole, the South African almost did enough to deny McIlroy at least till Hong Kong, setting up a four-foot birdie putt on the second. Unfortunately, the ball kissed the lip of the hole but refused to go in.
Back on the 18th for an astounding fifth time during the day, the 19-year-old Manassero set up a tricky downhill putt for eagle from about 12 feet out. Oosthuizen made birdie, but the teenager exhibited nerves of steel to sink it and win it. As for McIlroy, he became just the second golfer to win the merit race on both sides of the Atlantic.
DISCLAIMER: THE WRITER'S TRIP WAS SPONSORED BY WORLD SPORT GROUP, PROMOTERS OF THE BARCLAYS SINGAPORE OPEN