Matteo Manassero is aiming to use this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship to boost his hopes of setting up a Scottish reunion with Tom Watson.
The Italian was the reigning Amateur champion and just 16 at the time when he partnered Watson in the opening two rounds of the 2009 Open at Turnberry, where the American came agonisingly close to claiming his sixth Claret Jug at 59.
It was an experience Manassero, who last year at the age of 20 toppled Bernard Gallacher as the youngest PGA champion, will never forget and is extra motivation for him to make the European side to take on an American team with Watson as its captain in this September’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
“How easy and relaxed he was,” replied Manassero, during a visit to St Andrews last week to promote the new Callaway Big Bertha driver, to being asked what he’d learned from spending time with Watson at such an early stage in his own career.
“Everything that happened on the course he would take it the same way. He was very patient and always chilled, even though he was winning the Open at the time.
“His golf game was obviously extremely consistent. You can’t be thinking of how much the wind is going to move the ball; you have to know it. It has to be automatic and that’s how he played that week.
“He was hitting so many balls right by the flag; pin high, pin high. There was a lot of control, just incredible control. But his attitude was amazing. That’s the thing I really learned. Showing up with a smile, finishing with a smile.
“He had birdies, he had bogeys he may even have had a double. But he was just the same the whole way round. He will make a great Ryder Cup captain, as will Paul McGinley, who since he was elected has been so involved with us.
“He really makes us feel his presence. It feels like he is not leaving anybody behind. He is giving everybody the chance. Every time he sees you, he says ‘hope you have a good season, hope you make the team,’. He’s a really good guy. He will be a great captain. He studies the game a lot, he is a very intelligent man.”
Manassero, a four-times Euro-pean Tour winner before he’s turned 21, faces Luke Donald in today’s first round at Dove Mountain, where Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman, Ian Poulter, gets the event underway against Rickie Fowler while Stephen Gallacher, the sole Scot in the field, is out in the last of the 32 matches against Ernie Els.