Europe's new sensation Matteo Manassero will create more history next week when he becomes the youngest player ever to compete in golf's richest event, the $9 million Players Championship in Florida. But first the 18-year-old Italian is looking for his third European Tour victory -- and second in succession in -- in the Spanish Open.
Manassero became the circuit's youngest-ever champion down the coast in Castellon last October, and then three weeks ago, two days before his birthday, edged Rory McIlroy to win the Maybank Malaysian Open.
2011 SPANISH OPEN
The Spanish Open will be played over a composite layout made up of the back nine of Real Club de Golf's Yellow Course and the back nine of its Pink Course.
This week he is up against a field that includes Ryder Cup veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, runner-up to world No. 1 Lee Westwood in Korea on Sunday. The 47-year-old has been trying to win his national championship since 1983 -- 10 years before Manassero was even born.
"I've been in good form and hopefully this week is a little bit better," Jimenez said. "It would mean so much -- that's the one I would love to win the most. And a major, of course. I was happy for Lee last week, but hope this week is my week."
Compatriot Alvaro Quiros is the defending champion and their fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal, now the European Ryder Cup captain, plays the event for the first time in seven years.
Olazabal has never won it, either -- his debut was also in 1983 - and has had limited opportunity lately because of his continuing battle with rheumatic pains. The 45-year-old played only three tournaments last year, but this will be his seventh of 2011.
"My health is okay -- not 100 percent, but bearable,” said Olazabal. “It's certainly no excuse not to play well."
The event also sees Scotland’s Elliott Saltman return after being given a three-month ban in January for a serious breach of rules regarding the marking of his ball on the Challenge Tour last September.