NEWLY-CROWNED PGA champion Matteo Manassero has joined Phil Mickelson in the field for next month’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in Inverness.
The Italian 20-year-old, who claimed Bernard Gallacher’s record as the event’s youngest winner by winning a play-off in the European Tour’s flagship event just under a fortnight ago, is changing his schedule to play at Castle Stuart.
“Winning at Wentworth was a big moment for me,” said Manassero, who tied for 36th in the Highlands last year as his compatriot, Francesco Molinari, lost in a play-off to Jeev Milka Singh.
“Winning such an important tournament gives me a lot of belief going into the summer. You look at the history of the PGA and the great players who have won it and realise how big a step that could be in your career. All of that gives me great confidence.”
Manassero, who will be bidding to emulate Edoardo Molinari following his Scottish Open success at Loch Lomond in 2010, added: “I just have to try and stay focused on what I am doing and try to win tournaments.
“The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is one of the biggest events on the European Tour schedule and one that I would love to win, especially on a links course like Castle Stuart.”
Mickelson’s return there for the third year running was confirmed last month, when it was also announced that three-times major winner Padraig Harrington would also be in the field.
Ernie Els, who won the Open Championship the week after playing on the banks of the Moray Firth last summer, has not yet decided if he will be joining them.
However, championship director Peter Adams said he is “optimistic” the South African will be taking part in the event’s last staging at Castle Stuart – for the time being anyway – before it moves next year to Royal Aberdeen.
In addition to enjoying the chance to get some competitive links practice before the world’s oldest major, Els has made no secret that his family have enjoyed staying at Skibo Castle during the last two Scottish Opens in Inverness.
“Being able to announce a golfer of Phil Mickelson’s status is massive,” said Adams. “He’s long been a friend to the Scottish Open and he does have a positive effect on ticket sales, there’s no doubt about that.
“With Ernie Els, he is undecided at the moment but we hope he does play here. Typically, he’s always entered late so no-one is panicking. I’d say we are optimistic about him at the moment.”