AUGUSTA // Sixteen-year-old Matteo Manassero had a clear and obvious target when he continued his remarkable ride at The Masters yesterday. The youngest player in the history of the tournament had survived the halfway cut with nothing to spare. As the only one of the six amateurs to do so, he was certain to add the Masters silver cup to the silver medal he collected at last year's Open.
But brilliant though his 13th place finish was at Turnberry, Manassero needed top 10 to earn a trip to St Andrews this July - and missed out by a shot. Now the Italian's goal is to climb from 40th into the top 16 of the Masters and so guarantee himself a return visit to Augusta next April. And, resuming yesterday on three over, he made a good start, following three opening pars with a 40-foot birdie putt at the dangerous short fourth.
Later in the day, the Masters joint leaders after the second round, Britons Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, were braced to face the challenge of the players breathing down their necks in a five-way tie for third place - including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Manassero makes his professional debut at the Italian Open in Turin next month and is allowed seven invitations on the European Tour this season.
If he can earn enough or win he will not then have to go through the dreaded qualifying school at the end of the year. There is also the Ryder Cup, of course. He becomes eligible for that the moment he joins the Tour and captain Colin Montgomerie will doubtless be watching his progress with interest. Sergio Garcia made it five months after leaving the amateur ranks at the age of 19 in 1999. Sponsors should be queuing up, of course, but the teenager also has some school work to attend to on his return from this amazing adventure.
* Reuters and AP