Nick Rodger: Clearing the stage for the revival of Manaserro at the Italian Open


Nick Rodger Nick Rodger

Eagle-eyed readers may have found that in a while, I haven’t been here. In fact, this writer has been out of action for so long that you’ll get a little store cluster on your fingers if you drag your hand across the image line down there.

The last time I wrote about golf, it was de rigueur for the stovepipe hat and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. Well, it looks that way, at least.

It was a bit like removing a dusty flower pot from a neglected corner of the garden and startling a multitude of mud lice, worms and other wriggling, scurrying occupants of those dim, dank nooks and crannies to open up the old laptop for the first time in about seven months.

Meanwhile, as clumsy, clanking, and ponderous as Frankenstein’s monster attempting to adjust one of those fiddly recessed halogen spotlights was the effort to get the typing fingers moving.

Of course, during this long stretch of closures here, limitations there, and general tumult everywhere, your correspondent has not been completely idle.

It was a delightful diversion from the pandemonium of this vexing pandemic to amuse my young son, but having seen and heard the mood of his father darken in recent days with a sense of murmuring foreboding at the prospect of returning to work, I am sure that “What the hell am I writing for the Tuesday column?” would be one of the boy’s first fully organized sentences.

It’s nice to be back anyway, but on a more restricted basis than before. Yet “less is more,” as the sports editor said, just as he began counting my pay in promissory bills.

It has been a long and varied year for everybody. Here we are in the deepest October, and in November, there is still a Masters in Augusta to be played. There’s also the last major of the year for women, the US Open, which is in December. Anything in a stiff wind is jumbled and scattered like autumn leaves.

The Scottish Championship at the Fairmont St. Andrews last weekend was the last of nine European Tour events held in recent months in the British Isles. In years, they are the most on these shores, and Tour officials have worked wonderfully to salvage a schedule from the rubble of the Corona virus turmoil. What a shame that the eager golfing public, hungry for top-level tournament golf, particularly in some of the regional areas, has not been able to enjoy these tournaments.

The next tournament in Europe is this week’s Italian Open. Although the return of Tiger Woods to the PGA Tour in California after a month off would undoubtedly set off the normal feverish, if socially disconnected, buzz, those in golf circles will simply be anxious to see how the once majestic young Italian, Matteo Manassero, performs after losing his card nearly a year ago in his first European Tour event.

Professional golf is a ruthless business where it is possible to mercilessly reveal any weakness. That was definitely highlighted by Manassero’s well-documented spiral of woes last season. Technical changes to get more distance led to more pain than benefit, while in this game of incredibly complicated, convoluted demands, some deeper, personal lows did not help.

Particularly when we think back to the carefree, charismatic and captivating way Manassero highlighted his prodigious talent by winning the Amateur Championship as a 16-year-old in 2009, it was a difficult decline to watch. He was the Rookie of the Year on the European Tour back in 2010. He had won four Tour titles by 2013 and was 25th in the world, having made the sort of major strides once invoked by Bob Beamon.

However, by the end of a truly wretched 2019, as he plummeted into the murky waters normally reserved for the deep-sea lanternfish, he was ranked 1333rd in the world.

But the light comes from the darkness. If Manassero has something of a mountain to climb to get his career back on track, maybe it was fitting that when he won the third-ranked Alps Tour a few weeks ago, he got a timely moral boost.

He had missed 16 consecutive cuts in different tournaments prior to that event. We all know how grueling it can be in this game. Golf can become an exhausting, torturous experience when your trust is as weak as the Dead Sea Scrolls. As the great Henry Cotton said once,


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