Monty tips Manassero

Former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie expects Matteo Manassero to make the 2012 Ryder Cup team for Chicago.

Former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie expects Italian teenager Matteo Manassero to make the 2012 Ryder Cup team for Chicago.

With the qualifying race for the bieenial event starting this Thursday in Switzerland, Montgomerie believes that Manassero, the 18-year-old who already has two European tour wins to his name and in the last year has moved from 570th in the world to 30th, will be one of the new faces in the team when captain Jose Maria Olazabal finally settles on his selection.

“I’d expect him to make it,” said Montgomerie.

If that were the case, it would mean that Sergio Garcia would no longer be the youngest player ever to play in the Ryder Cup.

Garcia was 19 years and eight months when he got his chance back in 1999, and Manassero would beat him by three months.

Asked what his feelings on making the team are, Manassero said: “I’ve thought about it, obviously.

“I’m seeing improvements in my game, I’m hitting the ball further and I will try and play well.”

Europe’s team for Chicago next year is far from a formality, however, with several players at this stage making a case for getting back into the team after missing out last year, including the likes of Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson and Open champion Darren Clarke.

Aside from these names, there are also new faces who might well get a first chance to take part, and Montgomerie was quick to identify them.

He described Dane Anders Hansen as “the most improved golfer in Europe this year” and also said he would not be surprised if big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros or American-based Scot Martin Laird made the side as well – though Laird is giving those players who play on the European Tour an effective four-month head start in the race.

Olazabal also has two wild cards to pick, and it might prove even more difficult for him than Montgomerie, who in 2010 was able to select three.

Just as there are many players making a strong case for a Ryder Cup debut, there are also a few names who might struggle to retain their places.

Padraig Harrington still has not found and real form of late, and has dropped over 50 places since last year’s Cup, and the likes of Ross Fisher and Edoardo Molinari and Miguel Angel Jimenez are also going backwards in the world rankings.

Olazabal will also be hoping that players like Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer will be able to find some of their major-winning form of last year, while Ian Poulter is another player who he’ll be keeping a close eye on.

If Olazabal were to pick his 12 players based on the rankings at present, Manassero would make the team as the last pick.

The team would be, in order: Donald, Westwood, Kaymer, McIlroy, McDowell, Poulter, Casey, Karlsson, Francesco Molinari, Hansen, Laird and Manassero.