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Golf: Italian teen Manaserro catches the eye at Open

Most of the talk this week at the British Open has been about Tom Watson and longevity in golf but precocity has also been on clear display in the shape of Italy's Matteo Manassero

world Updated: Jul 21, 2009 13:21 IST

STURNBERRY, Scotland, July 19, 2009 (AFP) - Most of the talk this week at the British Open has been about Tom Watson and longevity in golf but precocity has also been on clear display in the shape of Italy's Matteo Manassero.

At 16 years and three months, the youngest player in the Open in 130 years, Manassero was outstanding throughout, closing with a fine 69 which gave him a hugely-encouraging finish in what was his first outing in a major.

"The last few weeks I'm playing good, so I'm very happy about this experience," he said.

"Today was a good round and I got to win the Silver Medal (as top amateur). It's special for me.

"It's very good, a great achievement."

Hailing from the medieval northern city of Verona, scene of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and a fervent fan of AC Milan, Manassero bagged his ticket for Turnberry by winning the British Amateur title in June, the youngest player to do so in the 124-year history of the championship.

But if he thought he would be under the radar in his first major he was badly mistaken as the Open organisers, always on the lookout for a crowd pleaser, paired him for the first two rounds with Watson, 43 years his senior and playing in his 32nd Open.

Manassero shot a 71 to Watson's tremendous 65 in the first round and then matched him with a 70 in the second round to make the cut.

Watson said he was impressed.

"He kept it very simple," he said. "I really liked the way he played his game. Matteo he's got a fine golf swing, a really, really good golf swing. I wish I had his putting stroke.

"His putting stroke is so pure, those three-footers just go right in the middle of the hole. Bang in the middle of the hole. I just vaguely remember how to do that."

The future then looks golden for the son of Italy, a country which last had a leading figure in the 1990s when the engaging Costantino Rocca was at his prime, losing to John Daly in a British Open playoff at St Andrews and defeating Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup.

Manassero, who cites Seve Ballesteros as being his idol, has no immediate plans to turn professional. His parents want him to finish school, where his favourite subjects are maths and history.

But he will take the step into the pro ranks after that instead of going on to university, he insists.