Senor Ballesteros would have been proud of Signor Manassero. If anybody sums up the legacy the Spanish great would have loved to have left the Seve Trophy with,it is surely this stunning young Italian.
There have been more fake heirs to Ballesteros than there was to Henry VIII. But this boy wonder plays like Seve did, swaggers like Seve did, pays absurd disregard to age barriers like Seve did – and the way in which the 18-year-old threw his ball into the lake on the 18th on the first day , and then the way in which he responded, shows the way he takes it as personally as Seve did, too.
Matteo Manassero is a Ryder Cup natural waiting to happen and the only argument is how soon he makes his debut. Lee Westwood has a slight doubt whether Manassero will qualify for Chicago next year – "he's too young, isn't he?" – while Ian Poulter has another theory. "The thing with Matteo is that he may be only 18 but he is so very consistent," said the Englishman. "You can see him racking up enough points to qualify for 2012."
Certainly the youngest player ever to win on the European Tour has the spirit. Seve would disagree, but perhaps Manassero, at this tender age, possesses too much spirit. As his ball went splash on Thursday night and his visor went down for the very first time on Tour he looked his age. "I had to speak with him in the locker room afterwards for 45 minutes," said Jean Van de Velde, the captain of the Continental team. "And then Jose Maria Olazabal spoke to him for 20 minutes."
A lot was said to the Manassero and at least some of it was digested. After recovering from the last-gasp agony to Darren Clarke and David Horsey – when Manassero's long putt to halve the match was two rolls too short – he and his partner, Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts, beat Ross Fisher and Scott Jamieson by two holes. What was most impressive was the steel with which they held on as their opponents whittled down what had been a commanding advantage.
"Matteo and Nico performed under a severe amount of pressure," said Van de Velde. " They were three-up with four to play and were only one up with two to play. They then finished with a birdie, another birdie and won their game. Matteo is going to be around for very many Seve Trophies and very many Ryder Cups."
Nobody was doubting Van de Velde on that score. Indeed, it was a convincing day all over for the maverick Frenchman. After enduring a miserable fourball opening which the Continentals lost 4-1, they won this fourball session 31/2-11/2. The rousing comeback means that Paul McGinley's Great Britain and Ireland team head into the weekend with a nervous advantage. With four foursomes and four greensomes today followed by 10 singles tomorrow, the competition begins for real now. And with so many rookies on McGinley's roster the next two days will make for intriguing viewing – Manassero's matches especially.