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Matteo Manassero: Italian Wonder Boy

by Jeff Skinner

Years from now we will look back at the 2010 golf season will and remember it as the year Tiger Woods finally went winless.  For the first time in his career Woods failed to visit the winners circle but that didn’t mean he wasn’t the focus of every media outlet in the world.  Woods’ decline opened the door for many a golfer to make their mark and a few very young golfers did just that.

Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishakawa all garnered headlines throughout the year.  Fowler, 21, was the “it boy” on the PGA tour this season.  With his pop star looks and old school game he contended in many tournaments and was the first player ever selected as a Ryder Cup Captain’s pick that hadn’t won a tournament.  His performance in The Ryder Cup proved his selection valid.

Rory McIlroy, 21, was hailed as “the Next Tiger” when he won on the European tour last year.  The Irish phenom excited crowds on both continents with his stellar play and validated his reputation with a win on The PGA Tour this season.

Ryo Ishakawa, 18, already has seven wins on the Japanese tour and shot a record setting, final round 58 in one of them.  While his foray into the United States met with limited success this year, Ryo has the game and the appeal to be around for a long time.  He has elected to stay and play in Japan again next season so he can refine his game before he makes the move to a worldwide golfer.

Perhaps the most intriguing of all the “baby faces” hitting the pro ranks this year was the young Italian, Matteo Manassero.  At sixteen he was the youngest ever British Amateur Champion.  That win got him into the Open Championship where he won the silver Medal as low amateur and tied for 13th.  It also got him invited to The Masters where he became the youngest ever to make the cut at 16.  He turned professional at 17 has hasn’t looked back since.

In his first professional tournament he tied for 29th at The BMW Italian Open.  Five months later he shocked the golfing world when he became the youngest winner in the history of the European Tour.  He won the Castello Masters and beat his hero Seve Ballesteros as the youngest European Tour winner ever.  With less than a dozen professional starts he has climbed to 86th in the world golf rankings.  His Sunday charge of 62 at The Hong Kong Open left him one back of winner Ian Poulter and tied for second place.

He may have gotten off to a late start this season but this young man is set to be a force on the European Tour.  With a little luck we’ll see him on this side of the Atlantic along with the rest of the great young golfers that are ready to claim the PGA Tour as theirs.

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