SINGAPORE Great things were expected of Matteo Manassero when the Italian announced himself as one of golf's great prospects by winning the 2010 Castello Masters as a 17-year-old just months after turning professional.
Two years on, the Italian ended a frustrating spell of results with a thrilling playoff victory over Louis Oosthuizen at the Singapore Open on Sunday to put himself back on track for a swift rise to the top with his third professional victory.
"It has been an extremely long day, the adrenaline kept me going and the playoff was just a great honour to play with Louis," Manassero told reporters after eagling the third extra hole to claim the $6 million co-sanctioned event.
"It's the first playoff of my career and it has just been amazing really. Of course to end it with an eagle was great."
Clutching the Singapore Open trophy in front of a packed media conference, Manassero contemplated how close he came to missing out on glory when Oosthuizen stood over a four-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, only to lip out with victory in his grasp.
"Well, you never know what's going to happen next and I guess in a playoff anything can. I had a chance to go forward and I felt at that moment I was really lucky," he said after ending a marathon day on which he played 36 holes to make up for time lost to the weather.
For one so young, Manassero had almost become a forgotten man as he adapted to technical changes and made tweaks to his game in order to get back to competing for victories on the European Tour.
"This year has been a little tougher for me as I am going through a few swing changes but it has been amazing this week,' he said.
"I am glad this win came at a great tournament like the Singapore Open. The swing changes were designed to pick up length and it has been working.
"The driver is clearly the most important thing. I needed to gain a little bit of yardage there and I changed the club this week and it gave me a little bit less spin. That helped give me a few more yards."
Despite claiming a third professional win before his 20th birthday Manassero remains committed to the target he set himself at the start of the season.
"I will stick to the same goals," he said. "My goal is to finish in the top 30 of the Race to Dubai standings which will allow me to qualify for next year's Open Championship.
"I've finished 31st two years in a row so I really want to get into the top 30," added Manassero, who climbed up to 13th in the Race to Dubai standings following the Singapore win.
"This win has taken a little bit of the tension away and given me a little bit of freedom. I will be able to work much better now and my coach will be able to speak to me a little easier, without me being grumpy."
(Editing by Tom Pilcher)