Nov 10, 2018: Matteo Manassero has proven he knows how to win on the biggest stage, but this week he will face a completely different type of pressure as he bids to earn back his European Tour card at European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage.
When he triumphed at the 2010 Castello Masters at 17 years and 188 days old, the Italian became the youngest ever winner on the European Tour — a record he still holds today.
A victory in each of the next two seasons confirmed the promise he had shown during his rookie year, and when he lifted the trophy at the prestigious BMW PGA Championship in 2013, the Verona native had reached superstar status.
Professional golf is a tricky business though, and now, the 25 year old will need a top-25 finish in the 156-player field if he is to return to the European Tour.
“I have been practising for this since Valderrama,” said Manassero, who will make his first appearance in the six-round event which starts tomorrow.
“It’s not an easy tournament to prepare for, obviously you’ve got to be very patient and you know that it’s going to be a long tournament, but my game is in good shape, steady enough, so I’m happy and looking forward to starting tomorrow, really.
“I think the approach this week should still be about winning. Of course it’s different than four rounds because with it being six rounds you know that you’re going to get one or maybe two rounds where you’re not going to be in perfect shape so you’ve got to battle even more than it being four rounds.
“But I would say being how it is that the guys who get their card are still placed in order, because of that, the aim should still be a win and wherever you end up you end up, but the goal has to be set high.
“This is a new experience for me, but my game is in a good place and I’m looking forward to the week.”
One of the men that Manassero pipped in a play-off to win the BMW PGA Championship five years ago, Marc Warren, is also teeing it up at Final Stage, after finishing 130th in the Race to Dubai this year, and he will be joined by Oliver Wilson – the only former Ryder Cup player present at Final Stage – and 17 other European Tour winners.
Wilson, the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Champion, comes into the event in fine form following a two-win season on the European Challenge Tour.
Tom Murray, the player who came closest to gaining a European Tour card via the Challenge Tour this season after finishing one spot outside the top 15 promotion places, has made the trip to Spain following last week’s Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final.
France’s Romain Langasque and The Netherlands’ Daan Huizing both came close to picking up European Tour cards via the second-tier circuit and will be eager to end their pursuit of the all-important prize in Spain this week.
A total of 28 countries will be represented at Final Stage this week, with New Zealander Josh Geary – who secured a European Tour card for the first time at Lumine 12 months ago – the player who has travelled the furthest to tee it up in Tarragona.
The six-round test begins tomorrow and following the first 72 holes, which is the standard length of a stroke play tournament, the field will be cut down to only the top 70 players and ties, who will then compete over another two rounds to determine the European Tour’s newest members – the top 25 and ties.