Manassero starts well in Morocco, but Rock's Masters quest ends early

Matteo Manassero at the Hassan II Trophy
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Matteo Manassero, ranked 61st in the world, will qualify for the Masters with a win at the Hassan II Trophy, and he is three off the lead after the first round.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 3:04 p.m.

Eleven shots on one hole has almost certainly ended Robert Rock's hopes of celebrating his 25th birthday at the Masters in two weeks.

The septuple bogey came on the 424-yard fourth of the Royal Palace course, and led to Rock opening the European Tour’s Hassan II Trophy with a 5-over-par 77 -- 12 strokes more than leader Damien McGrane.

The 57th-ranked Rock, the conqueror of Tiger Woods and the world's top four in Abu Dhabi two months ago, has to finish first or second to have a chance of climbing into the world's top 50 in time for the first major of the season. But even after an eagle on the long 17th, he was not even in the top 100 of the 126-strong field.

Italian 18-year-old Matteo Manassero, ranked 61st in the world, is the other player trying to qualify for Augusta National. He has to win, but a 3-under 69 keeps the dream alive for him.

McGrane, whose only European Tour victory came by nine shots in the China Open three years ago, is two ahead of Spaniard Alejandro Canizares, while Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and Welshman Phillip Price are part of a group three back.

Rock hit three drives off the fourth tee because the first two headed into the ice-plant rough, but on finding the second he attempted to play it and did not move the ball. It needed two more whacks to find the fairway, he was short of the green in seven, chipped to 10 feet and three-putted.

Not that he was alone in running up a big number.

Former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein had a 9 on the same hole in his 83; two-major winner John Daly took 9 on the long first as he matched Rock's 77 and Stephen Gallacher and James Morrison had 9s on the long fifth.

Soren Hansen, a member of Europe's 2008 Ryder Cup side, got no further than the turn. He was already 13 over par by then and that included taking 9 on the dreaded fourth.

There were no such problems for 40-year-old McGrane. There were three bogeys on his card, but he had kicked off with an eagle and added eight birdies, four of them in his last five holes.