Manassero's 64 equals course record in Spain

Matteo Manassero

MARBELLA, Spain — Italian teenager Matteo Manassero tied the course record with an 8-under 64 at the Andalucia Open on Thursday, giving him a three-stroke lead and a strong start in his bid to qualify for the Masters.

The 18-year-old's opening round on the Aloha course in Marbella matched Lee Westwood's second-round score en route to his victory in 2007.

Five players were at 67: Niclas Fasth of Sweden, Eduardo de la Riva of Spain, Henni Otto of South Africa and Englishmen Anthony Wall and European tour rookie Lloyd Kennedy.

Manassero is ranked 63rd and is trying to get inside the top 50 by the end of the month to ensure a return to the Masters, where he first played in 2010 as British Amateur champion. Manassero needs to win this week and finish no worse than runner-up in next week's Hassan II Trophy in Morocco.

"Of course, Augusta is on my mind as I would love to be going back," he said.

He needed just 24 putts Thursday and finished with nine birdies, including his last two holes. It was his lowest round to par, matching his 8-under 64 during the 2010 Hong Kong Open.

"I liked this course the first time I saw it as it suits my game, as strategy is very important," he said. "I only used the driver four times."

Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters winner, birdied two of his last four holes for a 68 in his first event since taking out European tour membership. He was among six players at 68. Tournament host Miguel Angel Jimenez, who played alongside Manassero, carded a 69.

"Compared to Matteo's round my score looks very poor," Jimenez said. "I played rubbish on the front nine with a couple of three-putts, but it was better on the back nine."

Thorhjorn Olesen of Denmark aced the fourth hole for his first hole-in-one on the tour.

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