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Muscle key if Manny is to emulate Seve's major touch

ESPN staff
May 29, 2013
Matteo Manassero already has an impressive trophy cabinet © PA Photos
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In recent years the BMW PGA Championship - now surely well-established among golf's biggest ten tournaments - has produced entertaining and dramatic finishes, and this year was certainly no different.

The start of the week was dominated by Sergio Garcia; the end of it by a youngster called Matteo Manassero. Both of them idolised Seve Ballesteros growing up but, while Garcia certainly plays in a similar fashion to his late, great compatriot, perhaps the only true similarity Manassero shares with the Spaniard is his burgeoning killer instinct.

Barely a month beyond his 20th birthday, the Italian now has four victories on the European Tour - achieving that impressive landmark a couple of months faster than even Ballesteros managed back in the 1970s. Manassero is regularly compared to Seve but in truth his style is notably different - accuracy off the tee and precision with his irons are his stock in trade (although his combination of impressive chipping but erratic putting is very Seve-like).

Manassero nevertheless idolised the great maverick growing up (even though Seve never finished inside the top-15 in a major in Manassero's lifetime) along with another former PGA Championship winner - Constantino Rocca, who he will hope to emulate by qualifying for Europe's Ryder Cup team next year.

"The [past champions] that stand out are two in particular: Seve and Constantino," Manassero said on Sunday. "Constantino was the first guy that was won it, the first Italian guy that won on the European PGA, and Seve has always been my idol, and he had a lot of success here.

"So those stand out because adding my name to the trophy where they are, it's a lot for me. It means a lot for me."

Manassero's challenge now, then, is to turn himself into the player capable of winning a major championship. Seve turned the winning touch he discovered as a teenager into one that claimed major championships, but Garcia - similarly prolific around his 20th birthday - has yet to.

Constantino Rocca was also a regular tour champion, but a 1995 Open Championship play-off loss to John Daly was as close as he got to ever getting over the hump and winning a major.

Manassero has the talent, but he surely needs to add some length if he is to go one better than every Italian before him. A short hitter by professional standards, even a concerted effort in the winter to slim down and add muscle - like McIlroy at the end of 2011 - has only so far really achieved the former.

Manassero has lost seven kilos from last season - but was still regularly outdriven at Wentworth. Nevertheless, the extra length helped him be more competitive than in years past at a course that can be something of a monster.

"I feel that my work has paid off," Manassero said. "In the off season, I had five weeks. I went on a diet. I've obviously decided to do it in the off season, and did quite a lot of cardio training and diet, and that was it.

"After the cardio training I had to do work to get the muscle, weights. But obviously when you slim down, you slim down a bit of everything. And so I tried to put some muscles on again, and now it seems to have stabilised really well, because I felt comfortable this week. "

He added: "I think I've added already some distance with the driver. I think I added some distance, and it's obviously very important. I was saying it when I was ten yards shorter; I need to add some yardage to be able to compete in certain events."

Those 'certain events' surely include the majors, where layouts regularly now measure over 7,500 yards. If Manassero is not to be at a major disadvantage over the next few years in those events, he will need to continue to bulk up.

But the next major, the US Open, will be played at short, tight Merion. Length is less of a factor there - indeed, Manassero's brand of accurate golf could really prosper at a course that is widely expected to be extremely punishing if players go off line.

Having made the cut at both his previous appearances, the invitation for Merion Manassero received as reward for his PGA win may just pique the interest of a few golf betting enthusiasts.

How he fares next month may just give an interesting indication of whether Manassero is destined to go on to be like Seve - or be doomed to end up like Sergio.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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