Italian teen sets records; other amateurs falter

Saturday, April 10, 2010
By Joe VanHoose
Morris News Service

Matteo Manassero will now have two mentions in the Masters Tournament record book.

Matteo Manassero, 16, the youngest golfer ever in the Masters, made the cut with a 76 Friday to set another record.

(Corey Perrine/Staff)

On Thursday, the 16-year-old Italian became the youngest player to ever start the Masters. On Friday, he became the youngest player to ever make the cut.

Manassero shot 4-over-par 76 Friday for a two-day total of 3-over 147. He was the only amateur to make the cut at Augusta National Golf Club.

But Manassero was not smiling after he walked off the 18th green. He was happy to play the weekend, but he was anything but pleased with his round.

"It's a good thing," he said. "But for the moment now, I'm thinking about my game today and I'm not happy about this round."

After firing 71 on Thursday, Manassero started Friday with a bogey on the first hole. He added four more bogeys and just one birdie -- at the par 5 13th -- to complete his round.

His ball-striking failed him, but his short game bailed him out, he said.

"I made many, many putts, many great up-and-downs," he said. "So that was a great thing."

Despite his struggles, Manassero still fared better than the five other amateurs in the field. Nathan Smith finished at 5 over, two shots north of the cut line. Brad Benjamin carded 77 to finish at 6-over.

Ben Martin, Chang-won Han and Byeong-Hun An all finished at 11 over.

Benjamin stood on the 15th fairway at 3 over, but he misfired on his approach shot and walked away with a bogey. He couldn't convert up-and-downs on 17 and 18 and bogeyed those holes, too. Even though he played Amen Corner under par, he could not put together two full rounds, he said.

"We played the tough holes good and gave a few away on some others," he said. Then Benjamin broke down and cried as his family and friends who followed him all the way consoled him.

Regaining his composure, the 23-year-old called his first Masters a dream come true.

"It's the most fun I've ever had in my life; that's why I'm so emotional," he said. "I wish it didn't have to end."

Martin's run toward the weekend ended on No. 13.

The 22-year-old Clemson University senior stood over his ball in the fairway and contemplated trying to hit the green in two. He decided to lay up.

Then Martin chunked a wedge short of the green, which rolled back into the water hazard. He could still see about two-thirds of the ball and didn't want to take a penalty stroke, he said.

"I figured I'd have some fun and go down in there," Martin said. "People started cheering when I started taking my shoes off."

Martin blasted the ball out of the water with a wedge but did not get it on the green. He then three-putted for a triple-bogey 8.

"I should've gone for it in two, I guess," he said.

After that, Martin said he focused on having fun and enjoying his first Masters experience.

"You never know when you're going to get out here," he said. "I hope this is just one of many."