Poults tips Matteo for rookie award

Ian Poulter is tipping 17-year-old Matteo Manaserro to become the European Tour’s first Italian Rookie of the Year this week.

Ian Poulter is tipping 17-year-old Matteo Manaserro to become the European Tour’s first Italian Rookie of the Year this week.

This after holding off Manassero’s blistering charge with an 8-under 62 in the final round of the Hong Kong Open on Sunday and narrowly edging home by a shot for his 10th win on the European Tour.

Poulter, who himself was the Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2000, is highly impressed with what the young Italian, the youngest ever winner of the British Amateur and more recently of a European Tour title at the Castello Masters in Spain, has achieved in his short time in professional golf.

“It’s incredible what Matteo has managed to achieve this year,” he is reported to have told Reuters after his Hong Kong victory.

“And while he’s not a certainty, you look at how Rory (McIlroy) burst on the scene, and Matteo’s exactly the same.

“He’s won a first Tour event and finished just a shot behind me in Hong Kong, so the kid is seriously good.”

Sergio Garcia, who hosted the Castello Masters, was, ironically, at 19, himself a young gun when he won his maiden victory in the 1999 Irish Open and went on to be crowned ‘Rookie of the Year’ at the end of the season.

For this year’s award Manassero, though now favourite to win the coveted award, can expect some stern opposition for other rookie hopefuls like Welshman Rhys Davies, winner of this year’s Hassan 11 Trophy, the English pair of John Parry, who captured the Vivendi Cup, and James Morrison, who won the Madeira Islands Open, and the 18-year old Korean Seung-yul Noh, winner of the Malaysian Open and now, this weekend, the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit Crown.

Manassero joined the paid ranks in time to play by invitation in May’s Italian Open as a pro and then, after just five more Tour invites, his third place finish at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland brought in enough in additional prize money to secure him his Tour card for 2011.

And it was only four events later, with his confidence sky high when the fledgling young star became the youngest ever owner of a European Tour title with his maiden win in Spain.

Dubai could spell the difference between winning and losing for the eventual Rookie recipient and Manassero knows it. He’ll be a man with a mission when he tees off at Jumeirah’s tough Earth course on Thursday

“It would be a great achievement to win ‘Rookie of the Year’,” he said in Hong Kong.

“When I first turned pro in May, I did not think I would be in the running for the title, but my win at the Castello Masters, has put me in contention.

“There are a lot of great players who can still win the award this year… I am in good company, and it will be a tough decision.

“All of us are in this week’s final event, so if I were to win the ‘Rookie of the Year’, I would be very honoured.

“The thing is with ‘Rookie of the Year’, you can only have one shot at it, so it would cap a fantastic first year for me.”

Along with Poulter, some prominent previous winners of the award include Martin Kaymer (2007), Thomas Bjorn (1996), Colin Montgomerie (1988), Jose Maria Olazabal (1986), Sandy Lyle (1978), Nick Faldo (1977), Sam Torrance (1972) and Tony Jacklin (1963).

A representative of the European Tour, the R & A and the Association of Golf Writers will vote on the award early next month.