Golf: Young gun Manassero hopes for Open coming-of-age

Brimming with confidence two months after the biggest win of his young career, Italy's Matteo Masassero said Wednesday he is now ready to challenge for the majors, including this week's British Open at Muirfield.

Manassero became the youngest ever British Amateur Champion at the age of 16 in 2009 and followed it up the following year by becoming the youngest ever winner of a European tour event.

A little over seven weeks ago, still just 20, he claimed his fourth European tour title. This time it was a big one, the BMW PGA Championship, and all the top European stars were over from America.

"It was almost a major field," he told a press conference at Muirfield on the eve of his third Open. "We were missing the Americans, but all the Europeans were there."

"Winning that one gives me, in myself, in my game, it gives me a lot of confidence for majors, more than anything else," he said. "Just because if you win such a big event, then you know in yourself that you are competitive."

Manassero will hope to draw on plenty of success on links courses during his amateur days this week at Muirfield, a hard and fast test on the Scottish coast east of Edinburgh that he said was to his liking.

"I like it. Suits my eye for sure, and my game, too," he said. "I'm really looking forward to it because of the year that has been."

Manassero's first taste of British Open action was in 2009 at Turnberry when he qualified as the reigning amateur champion.

He had an amazing week, playing alongside five-time Open winner Tom Watson and Spain's Sergio Garcia in the first two rounds, making the cut and going on to win the Silver Medal for leading amateur, finishing tied 13th.

"This is an event that I care so much about for the memories that it gave me back not long ago, but in '09. And that certainly was one of the most incredible weeks of my life," he said.

The young, rising star bumped into Watson on the practice ground at Muirfield and received some sage advice.

"Keep yourself out of the bunkers and you'll be fine.' That's the tip that he gave me," Manassero said.

The Italian lost his record of being the youngest player ever to make the cut at a major when China's Guan Tianlang managed the feat at this year's US Masters at the tender age of just 14.

However, should Manassero find a way past his elders this week he would become the youngest winner of a major since 1900, surpassing the likes of Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros and Rory McIlroy.