Manassero captures BMW PGA title; Westwood falters

Matteo Manassero celebrates his victory after the fourth playoff hole at the BMW PGA Championship.

Matteo Manassero celebrates his victory after the fourth playoff hole at the BMW PGA Championship.

VIRGINIA WATER, England –- Matteo Manassero left the $6.1 million BMW PGA Championship looking forward to the future. Lee Westwood departed wondering if he can find a long game to contend in next month’s U.S. Open.

It took four playoff holes, but Manassero finally prevailed over England’s Simon Khan and Marc Warren of Scotland. The trio stepped back to the 18th tee after tying at 10 under after 72 holes, one shot worse than the 11 under Westwood reached by the fourth hole of the final round.

Warren departed on the first extra hole when his tee shot found a bush and his fourth ended in the water hazard. Manassero and Khan played the 18th three further times before Khan’s second to the par-5 ended in the water hazard fronting the green. Manassero found the green and two-putted for his fourth European Tour win.

“I’m feeling unbelievable, really emotional. I’ve always felt something really special about this place and this week,” Manassero said. “I managed to play well and managed to stay in contention. I’m the happiest man in the world right now.”

The 20-year-old Italian, already the youngest European Tour winner, picked up a check for just over $1 million. Khan, the 2010 BMW PGA Champion, and Warren earned $527,870 each.

It comes as no surprise that Manassero should win this title. Of all the young players to come into the game in recent years, the Italian is heir apparent to the legendary Seve Ballesteros. In fact, Manassero practiced with Ballesteros when he was a boy growing up in Northern Italy.

Ballesteros loved Wentworth, winning on six occasions around the Wentworth course. Don’t be surprised if Manassero comes close to or even surpasses Seve’s tally during his career.

The young Italian earns a spot in next month’s U.S. Open at Merion as a result. Given their respective games at the moment, he’s probably a better bet to win America’s national championship than Westwood.

The Englishman’s collapse was surprising. He looked like a runaway winner when he took a two-shot lead after three straight birdies from the second hole. However, he bogeyed three of the next six and then made a double bogey at the reachable par-5 12th hole when he hooked his second tee shot in a row and had to take a penalty drop.

The Englishman limped home in 40 shots to finished three strokes out of the playoff.

“I'm struggling in my swing a little bit at the moment,” Westwood said. “When you're in the last round, it just gets found out. I haven't got a safe shot, so I can't aim up one side and turn out on to it and see it fade. I tried do that on 11 and 12 and went straight left on me twice.”

It doesn’t bode well for next month’s U.S. Open. The Englishman normally enters that championship as one of the favorites. He left Wentworth wondering about getting some help.

“I haven't seen somebody for a while now and maybe I just need a professional opinion on it, another set of eyes looking at it.”

He needs to find help quickly if he is to win that elusive first major. As for Manassero, the world remains his oyster.

Merion might be a good fit for Manassero. What odds on him becoming Italy’s first major winner?

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