Talk about a nice birthday present. Matteo Manassero doesn't celebrate his 18th birthday until Tuesday, but it's safe to assume his win at the Maybank Malaysian Open trumps every gift he'll receive.
Rolling a hot putter on Saturday and Sunday, Manassero went 9-under over on the weekend to capture his second professional win, both of which have come on the European Tour.
We've been talking about the Italian for the last year since he turned pro, and how he had the game to contend with the best in the world. But I'm not sure anybody thought he'd be this dominant at this stage in his young career.
If there's one thing about Manassero that makes you stand up and take notice, it's his ability to close things out down the stretch. He looked unbelievably calm when he took the lead on the 14th hole, hitting fairways and greens and never once looking like he was going to falter. The comparisons to a young Jose Maria Olazabal seemed silly when he first turned pro, but with two professional wins, and a recent strong showing on the PGA Tour, you have to think the comparisons don't seem so crazy after all.
Manassero is the real deal, and at this point in his young career -- don't forget, he's only been a professional for 11 1/2 months -- it's scary to think how good he could be when he's, say, Rory McIlroy's age. It's impossible to predict if, or when, this youngster will ever suffer burnout, but the way he's handled his career so far, taking time off and not playing too many events, you have to think he'll be around for a long time to come.
The sky is the limit for the young Italian, and I for one can't wait to see what the future holds.