Matteo Manassero is one of a host of big names to bow out after four rounds at Q School
For a player who had won four times on the European Tour before his 20th birthday, and made the cut at the Open and Augusta as an amateur, there was always going to be a blip at some point. But, for Matteo Manassero, it’s been a monumental one.
For many of us there has rarely been a more thrilling introduction to the big stage; his highlights package of winning the Amateur Championship at Formby at just 16 was one long showreel of 30-foot putts disappearing, his introduction to professional life was a breeze with a win within five months and three years later he added a fourth victory at Wentworth.
The Ryder Cup seemed to be just around the corner, here was our new Seve with the good looks and incredible game. But the debut never came and the superstar-in-waiting slowly slipped backwards.
Twelve months ago he visited Q School for the first time and missed the cut. Given his profile and previous achievements he managed 18 starts on the European Tour but two made cuts brought in less than €7,000. In 2012 and 2013 he comfortably topped the €1.5 million mark.
There have, supposedly, been a number of factors behind the demise. A big one was that he tinkered with his technique to gain some much-needed yards as the emphasis on the power game continued to get out of hand. The Italian averages around 280 yards off the tee which this year put him outside the top 170 players for both distance and strokes gained off the tee.
And while plenty would love to trot out the ‘if it ain’t broke’ mantra it’s a bit harder being the one in the middle of it all when your peers are smashing it 40 yards past you and reducing par 5s to a mid iron when you know you probably can’t get there.
With the change in swing part of his golfing instinct slipped by the wayside, but once you are on the road to trying to up your swing speed it’s a hard one to come off, and certainly one to obsess about. With it all came a change in the backroom team.
Then came, quite naturally, the playing-with-fear aspect. The teenage freedom was now very much a thing of the past and, when the big moments came along, Manassero’s mind and swing would let him down.
And through all of this Manassero has had to live his young, professional life as a teenager. There are plenty of other ways to live your life than living out of a suitcase for over half the year and then spending hours on a range trying to perfect a certain move before getting beaten up on a 7,500-yard course.
Even turning up to Q School at Lumine will have taken plenty of courage and a huge leap of faith. On Sunday he played with Will Enefer and David Micheluzzi who were both round in 63.
Manassero had a 75 but he was still there on the tee on Lumine’s Hills Course at 9.30am. He would finish his four days at 15 over – some other big names to bow out with two rounds to go were Lee Slattery, Michael Hoey, Jigger Thomson, Brett Rumford, Ross McGowan, Scott Gregory and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. The two other biggest names coming into the week, Jamie Donaldson and Paul Dunne, were undone by wrist injuries.
For someone who is still 26 it seems, and is ridiculous, to begin to question the future of someone with such a talent. As things stand though Manassero is a long way from where most of us would love to see him.
Mark will be at Lumine for the remainder of Q School. Keep up to speed with all the action on Twitter.