February 23, 2011
If match play golf has taught us anything over the years, it's that you should always expect the unexpected.
On paper, Steve Stricker's match with 17-year-old Matteo Manassero seemed like a foregone conclusion. Besides the fact that Manassero was young enough to be Stricker's son, the eighth ranked player in the world had one gigantic edge over the young Italian: experience.
But as we've learned recently with this promising crop of young golfers, experience and age don't seem to scare them.
Embracing the challenge, Manassero, the youngest player to ever tee it up at the Accenture Match Play, used some clutch shots and a lengthy birdie putt on the 17th hole to dispose of Stricker, 2 & 1, in one of the biggest upsets of the first round.
While the golf world will call it an upset, Manassero has been shocking the sport for more than a year, becoming the youngest player to ever win a European Tour event last year, and living with the weight of being called the "next Seve Ballestros."
But it looks like the weighty expectations aren't bothering him too much. Like Rickier Fowler and Rory McIlroy, Manassero is part of a bumper crop of teenage golfers that are fearless and rarely get starry-eyed when they get the chance to play against some of the best players in the world.
Manassero may not have the charisma Fowler or the brashness of McIlroy, but he clearly has a game that will go far. His upset win over Stricker was just another reason why the young gun from Italy is not only a force to be reckoned with for the rest of this week, but also for many years to come.