Wherefore art thou Matteo?
It’s hard not to think of Matteo Manassero whenever Renato Paratore’s name goes on the first page of any European Tour leaderboard. Paratore's one-shot lead going into the final round of the Betfred British Masters was another reminder that Manassero is still in free fall.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for the boy from Verona.
Manassero is yet another seminal lesson of just how cruel this game can be, that nothing is ever guaranteed, nor should be taken for granted.
Quite how the charismatic Italian has gone from European Tour winner to struggling tour pro is a complete mystery.
Manassero’s European Tour status is so low he couldn’t get a place in the British Masters field. Entries went down to 144th on last year’s Race to Dubai. Manassero finished 293rd. He made just two cuts from 18 tournaments. He’s now ranked 1,705th in the world from a career high of 25th in July 2013.
Stories of players who shone briefly only to fizzle out and disappear into obscurity are too numerous to mention. However, with Manassero we’re not talking about a one-win wonder.
Anyone who was at Formby for the 2009 Amateur Championship knew the teenage Italian was a star in the making. After all, Seve Ballesteros was his childhood hero, and the young Italian could have given Seve a decent competition in the looks department.
Quite simply, he was a class above the field at Formby. Not only did he walk off with the trophy to become the first Italian winner, and youngest champion, he led the 36-hole qualifying. Here’s what I wrote for Golfweek when I covered that 2009 Amateur Championship:
"Anyone remotely worried about the future of golf should have been at the 2009 Amateur Championship. A few days walking the fairways of Formby Golf Club was sufficient reassurance that the game’s future is in safe hands.
"Matteo Manassero’s historic victory set new milestones for the game’s oldest amateur event, and proved that golf is vibrant in parts of the world not normally associated with the royal & ancient game."
The Italian went on to another youthful record at the 2010 Masters, becoming the youngest player to make the 72-hole cut.
Another one followed when he won the 2010 Castello Masters. It made him the tour’s youngest winner at 17 years and 188 days. It also meant he didn’t have to attend the European Tour Qualifying School. He became the tour’s second youngest full member after his idol Ballesteros.
No one was surprised when the charming Italian won tournaments in successive years, culminating in the 2013 BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship tournament. He proved any doubters wrong with that victory, those who said he didn’t hit it far enough off the tee to compete with the European Tour sluggers. Wentworth is not a short golf course.
What Manassero lacked in length he more than made up for in other departments. Not now.
A trip to the European Tour Qualifying School at the end of 2018 proved unsuccessful. He travelled to the Q School with much confidence.
“This is a new experience for me, but my game is in a good place," he said.
It wasn’t. Manassero shot rounds of 78, 72, 75 and 76 to miss the 72-hole cut by 18 shots. Those scores were consistent with Manassero’s scores in his 18 European Tour outings last year. He averaged 74.38.
Paratore is looking for his second European Tour win following the 2017 Nordea Masters. He has Manassero, among others, to thank for his European Tour success. The two are close friends. Manassero has acted as a mentor to the Rome native. In fact, when Paratore arrived on tour Manassero, sadly, had to tell his younger compatriot he needed to slow down. Paratore is no Bryson DeChambeau. He gets on with it.
Anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of Manassero’s company just wishes he was getting on with his European Tour career.
Wherefore art thou Matteo?
#JustSaying: “Golf is not a game of great shots. It's a game of most misses. The people who win make the smallest mistakes." Gene Littler