Five Things: Manassero wins in Malaysia

Matteo Manassero with the trophy after winning the 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open.

Matteo Manassero with the trophy after winning the 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open.

Matteo Manassero became the second-youngest winner in European Tour history Sunday with his victory at the Maybank Malaysian Open. The youngest winner? Matteo Manassero.

Manassero, 17, held off Gregory Bourdy by a shot and Rory McIlroy by two for his second European Tour title. Manassero closed in 68, while McIlroy, despite five birdies on the back nine, closed in 69.

Manassero, who became the youngest winner in tour history with his victory at the Castello Masters in October, began his back nine by holing his approach shot for eagle on the par-5 10th. After a bogey at the par-4 12th, Manassero played the final six holes in 1 under to become the second consecutive teenager to win the Malaysian Open. Seung-Yul Noh was the defending champion after winning at age 18.

“I could never have expected to have one win before I was 18, and now I’ve got two,” Manassero said. “It’s a great achievement after just 11 months of professional golf.”

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Rory McIlroy’s loss at Augusta may garner far more attention, but this week marked the second time in two weeks the young Irishman has failed to collect a win after being in contention. McIlroy, the 36-hole leader, needed a birdie on the final hole to force a playoff with Manassero, but his lengthy birdie attempt didn’t scare the hole and he walked away with a three-putt bogey and third-place money.

“I’m disappointed with the result but everything else was positive,” said McIlroy. “I’m proud of myself at how I picked myself up from last week and the way I came back on the back nine today.”

After going out in 1-under 35, McIlroy made birdies at Nos. 10 and 11, but gave them back with a double bogey at the 12th. McIlroy zipped back into contention with birdies at three of the next four holes (14, 16, 17).

INVITATION ONLY: With the win, Manassero will move inside the top 35 in the world rankings, likely earning him a spot in all three of the year’s remaining majors.

After finishing as the low amateur at the 2010 Masters (T-36), an exemption earned from his 2009 British Amateur title, Manassero failed to qualify for this year’s Masters. He finished T-13 at the 2010 British Open.

“I just missed Augusta but playing the other three will be fantastic,” Manassero said. “I’m really proud of that and the next target will be winning another tournament and keeping the momentum going. It’s going well and we’ll see what happens.”

MARQUEE PLAYERS: The two most recent major champions were in the field at Malaysia, as Masters champion Charl Schwartzel finished in a tie for 11th at 7-under, one shot behind PGA champion Martin Kaymer.

Also in the field was Danny Lee, the player that previously held the distinction of “youngest to win on the European Tour.” Lee, the 2008 U.S. Amateur champion, won the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic as an amateur.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Manassero won 288,466 euros for his victory, no doubt enough to buy himself quite a birthday present. Manassero, who lives at home with his parents (and admits to still having chores) turns 18 Tuesday.

“I couldn’t imagine anything better – going back home to celebrate my 18th birthday and my second victory on The European Tour,” Manassero said. “I’ll have a big dinner and celebrate both.”

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