The Maybank Malaysian Open again lived up to its reputation as a launching pad for the young guns to rock the world of golf with the crowning of Italian prodigy Matteo Manassero against an unprecedented field of three current Major winners.
Last year saw Noh Seung-yul of South Korea making history as the youngest winner at 19-years-old but that was eclipsed by Manassero playing a superb game of patience on the greens.
Manassero, who turns 18 today, eventually claimed the handsome winner’s cheque of US$416,660 with a one-stroke win over Gregory Bourdy of France.
Seung-yul went on to become the youngest winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit last year and earned a place in the Majors but he is not the only one to go on to achieve bigger things.
Current world No. 2 Lee Westwood and Fijian golf star Vijay Singh were among those won the Malaysian Open and went on to become marquee names in the sport.
Manassero’s second European Tour title should meant more as not just a perfect present birthday gift but also the fact that it earned him an automatic entry to the Majors.
The teenager has jumped to the top 35 in the world rankings following his triumph at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club and he put his win down to his ability to keep a cool head despite coming under pressure from other players and the uncertain weather.
“All the players were doing well. It was not easy to concentrate and stay calm. Fortunately, I managed to do so,” said Manassero.
“It’s a great achievement for myself and gets me into the Majors. I just missed Augusta but playing the other three will be fantastic.
“I am 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.”
The Malaysian Open this year will also be remembered for the one where crowd favourite and another talented youngster Rory McIlroy almost achieved a stunning comeback win after his astonishing collapse while leading the field on the final day of the Masters prior to arriving here.
McIlroy put up a brave fight on the back nine to give himself a shot at victory but a bogey on the last put paid to his hopes of forcing Manassero into a playoff.
The Northern Ireland golfer, who settled for third spot, tipped his hat to Manassero.
“Matteo is fantastic. He is a great talent. To get two wins on the European Tour before your 18th birthday is pretty special. He deserves it,” said McIlroy.
The 50th edition of the Malaysian Open not only attracted the strongest field but also thousands of fans, who packed the greens from the first round. Among the drawcards were South African Charl Schwartzel and German Martin Kaymer, the current Masters winner and world No. 1 respectively.
The marquee players at the Open this year lived up to their reputation as they continued to contend until the 72nd hole, unlike previous years when they tend to miss the cut.