Manassero makes 'best ever' start in bid to win home Open

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The Independent Online

Italian teenager Matteo Manassero lived up to the huge expectations on him with a breathtaking start to his Italian Open campaign in Turin yesterday.

His thrilling birdie-eagle-birdie run proved to be the foundation for a first-round six-under-par 66 at Royal Park which took the Italian to within two strokes of leaders Chris Wood and Robert Rock of Britain.

Even though the spectator paths were squelching with mud after heavy rain, Manassero, 18, had a huge gallery to watch him begin his bid to win his home Open and they were not disappointed. "It was definitely the best start of my career," he said. "It was good to be here with people seeing it."

First he hit a second shot to only six feet, followed it with a chip in for his eagle and then brought the crowd to fever pitch by spearing in a five-iron approach to less than two feet.

He received useful advice from his playing partner, Darren Clarke, the 42-year-old Northern Irishman who recently claimed his 13th tour title. Clarke hit a 71 but the woes of another Briton Colin Montgomerie, also playing in their group, continued as he slumped to a 75.