Teenager Matteo Manassero returns this week to the course where he struck his first shot as a professional, still pinching himself about how much he has achieved in the 13 months since.
The European Tour’s BMW Italian Open at Royal Park sees Manassero warming up for a U.S. Open debut that would not even have been on his radar when he left the amateur ranks after last year's Masters. But from 570th in the world at the start of 2010, the 18-year-old now finds himself ranked 30th, with two European Tour wins to his name and approximately $2 million in prize money already.
"My first full year as a professional has been more than I could ever have imagined," Manassero said.
Having led the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth with a round to go before slipping to seventh two weeks ago, he now hopes to become the second Italian winner of his national Open in six years. Francesco Molinari was the other in Milan in 2006.
"I remember watching Francesco winning and feeling very excited as no Italian had won for a very long time [26 years],” Manassero said. "We will both be trying very hard again and it would be fantastic to put my name on the trophy alongside Francesco's."
The younger of the Molinari brothers missed the event last year because it clashed with the Players Championship, but Edoardo is the one not present this time after deciding to play last week's Memorial tournament in Ohio.
Colin Montgomerie is in the field and badly in need of a boost after all that has happened to him in the last nine days. Everything seemed on the up for last year's Ryder Cup captain when he came in seventh at Wentworth -- his first top-10 finish for almost three years.
But 24 hours later he failed to qualify for the U.S. Open, then he shot 78 and 79 at Celtic Manor for a 15-over total that was worst in Europe for over 20 years. And on Monday he was last in the British Open qualifier at Sunningdale, his 6-over aggregate being 18 strokes worse than winner Graeme Storm.
Montgomerie has played in every Open since his 1990 debut and this week counts towards a current form mini-money list that offers two more spots for Royal St. George’s, giving him another potential way into the field.
Also in the field are Ryder Cup stars Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and Paul McGinley.