Manassero leads early at European Masters


2009 European TourCRANS-SUR-SIERRE, Switzerland – Italian teenager Matteo Manassero shot a 7-under 64 Thursday to take a one stroke lead in the first round of the European Masters.

“The perfect round of golf,” the 17-year-old Manassero said of his bogey-free round. “I didn’t miss many greens and when I did I got up and down each time, so it was just perfect.”

Mikko Ilonen used his power to shoot a 66 and earn a share of second place alongside Graeme Storm. Edoardo Molinari (66) was a further stroke behind just four days after winning the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles to earn a wild card for next month’s Ryder Cup.

Manassero, who turned professional in May and is allowed a maximum seven sponsor invites, still needs to win his European playing card for 2011. If he fails, he will have to attend tour school in Spain in early December.

Manassero played in the morning when the soft greens at Crans-Sur-Sierre were playing at their best. By the time Molinari teed off after lunch, the heavy traffic of tournament play had made them bumpy.

“I had another good solid round of golf,” Molinari said. “Though on the back nine holes it was a bit scrappy because I found it difficult making putts.

“In the afternoon the greens were not perfect, so I am looking forward to the second round, starting out in the morning the making some birdies.”

British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, returning to action for the first time since the PGA Championship, shot an even-par 71 with four bogeys and four birdies.

Greg Norman’s first tournament golf after a year spent recovering from shoulder surgery was not encouraging. The 55-year-old Australian and two-time British Open champion drove out of bounds at the par-5 14th on his way to a 4-over 75.