x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Golf: Matteo Manassero out of the gate quickly at the Nordea

After going to extra holes to win his previous event, Matteo Manassero looked like a man out to end any competition early at the Nordea Masters, firing a 66 for a share of the first round lead.

Italy's Matteo Manassero plays a bunker stroke to the 15th fairway on his way to an opening-round 66 at the Nordea Masters in Sweden.
Italy's Matteo Manassero plays a bunker stroke to the 15th fairway on his way to an opening-round 66 at the Nordea Masters in Sweden.

STOCKHOLM // It took four extra holes for Matteo Manassero to win the most important title of the season last weekend outside London.

The way he started yesterday at the Nordea Masters, it was as though he wanted to end the tournament as soon as possible.

Showing no emotional hangover from the biggest victory of his young career, the rising Italian star birdied the first six holes in his opening round and finished with a 6-under 66, which was good for a share of the lead at Bro Hof Slot Golf Club.

It is hardly unusual for players to take a week off after winning a big title, or even if they elect to play the following event, to exhale a bit and let the accomplishment wash over them.

Instead, Manassero, 20, seems intent on winning his fifth European Tour title.

"I've never started that well in my career, that just seemed a little strange," Manassero said. "It was a guess how I would wake up this morning, as I had been pretty tired up until last night, but I felt good and I could see that from the first tee when I hit good shots."

Four days earlier he won the BMW PGA Championship, becoming the youngest player in history to claim the tour's flagship event, played at his home base.

Manassero is tied with Spain's Pablo Larrazabal in the Nordea, and one shot behind them are Sweden's Fredrik Andersson Hed, HSBC Abu Dhabi champion Jamie Donaldson of Wales, and England duo Chris Lloyd and Simon Wakefield.

Sweden's Alex Noren, the defending champion and pre-tournament favourite, made five birdied on the back nine and also finished with a 67. Ryder Cup member Peter Hanson of Sweden, the highest-ranked player in the field at No 23 and one of the crowd favourites, signed for a 69.

After Manassero's blistering opening run, a bogey at the 17th was wiped out by a birdie from 10 feet at the first, and the four-time European Tour winner produced impressive chips at the second and third to scramble for pars.

There was a second dropped shot of the day at the fifth, but Manassero responded with a magnificent pitch to within a foot at the next to set up a tap-in birdie and sit alongside Larrazabal at the top of the leaderboard.

Afterward, Manassero insisted there was no lingering tiredness from his exploits at Wentworth Club last week.

"I've been tired, but I woke up and I felt good," he said. "It's a tough course when the wind picks up, so I think every afternoon is going to be hard."

A total of 60 players broke par at the venue, located outside Stockholm.


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