By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Matteo Manassero remembers the first time he met Seve Ballesteros. He was just four years old and was at the Italian Open.
Of course Manassero just turned 18 last month, so remembering his first encounter with the Spaniard isn’t all that difficult.
“Seve made a huge impact on everybody who’s from Italy,” said Manassero, who received a letter from Ballesteros congratulating him on his first win as a professional, which came as a 17-year-old in Spain. With the victory Manassero became the youngest winner in European Tour history.
“If you met him, you never forget him. He was a special person and has stayed in the memory of everybody.”
Manassero is of course already making plenty of memories of his own. He has two career wins and is in the field for his first PLAYERS Championship by virtue of his being ranked in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings -- he’s currently 33rd.
The Italian teen has made just three starts on the PGA TOUR this year with his best finish in stroke-play a tie for 20th at the Transitions Championship. He also reached the third round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
As for how Manassero thinks he’ll fare in his first trip to TPC Sawgrass?
“I like the course, it’s fantastic, everybody knows Sawgrass, it’s a special place,” said Manassero, who added that he intends to split his time between nine or 10 events on the TOUR and 15 or so events on the European Tour.
“This course suits my game because you need to keep the ball in play and the greens are small and slopey. It’s a tough course but if I play a good game I’m going to be okay on this course because I don’t have to hit the ball 320 yards, because I cant.”