Manassero wins in playoff

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 11, 2012
After already playing 33 holes at the Singapore Open on Sunday, the last thing Matteo Manassero probably wanted was to go back on the course for a playoff hole. Or two playoff holes. Or three. The 19-year-old Manassero persevered and holed a 12-foot eagle putt to beat Louis Oosthuizen on the third playoff hole to capture his third European Tour title and by far his biggest paycheck: $1 million. It was a very long day on the course for both Manassero and Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion. Tropical downpours on the first two days of the event had created a backlog in the schedule, forcing all the golfers to finish their second rounds Saturday afternoon and then rush back out to start the third as the sun was going down. Manassero only finished three holes in his third round Saturday, meaning he had to return early Sunday morning to play 15 holes, then after a brief 27-minute rest, start his final round. Oosthuizen played 13 holes to finish his third round in the morning. ''It's been a very tiring week,'' Manassero said. ''On 13, I was not feeling that great. I was really flat, no more energy left but the adrenaline throughout the day kept me going.'' Oosthuizen and Manassero both finished at 13-under 271 in regulation. The South African had seven birdies and three bogeys to card a 67 in the final round, while Manassero, the third-round leader by two strokes, had three birdies in a round of 69. Oosthuizen, who also lost a heart-breaking playoff this year to Bubba Watson at the Masters, barely missed a 4-foot putt for the title on the second playoff hole, covering his mouth in disbelief and muttering to himself after it lipped out. Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, finished in third place at 10 under, guaranteeing he will win the European money title this year. He becomes the second golfer after Luke Donald last year to win both the U.S. PGA Tour and European money titles in the same season. ''Winning a second major championship already made it a fabulous season, but then to follow Luke Donald in becoming No. 1 in both Europe and the States is the icing on the cake after a fabulous season,'' he said. The Northern Irishman finally found the consistency that's been missing this week with four birdies and a 30-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to shoot a final-round 65. ''I set myself a target today to finish on 10 under, get myself into double digits under par,'' he said. ''Obviously it was great to finish with an eagle on the last but I was not thinking of anything else other than hit a good putt.'' Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, the second-round leader, had five bogeys in the third round in a disappointing start to the day, but shot a 68 in the final round to finish fourth at 8 under. Three-time Singapore champion Adam Scott was one stroke back in equal fifth with Italy's Francesco Molinari. Phil Mickelson, who barely made the cut on Saturday, had four birdies in a bogey-free round of 67, finishing in a tie for 14th place at 5 under. Much has been expected from Manassero following the records he set when he burst on the scene several years ago: youngest British Amateur winner (16 years old), youngest golfer to play in the Masters and make the cut (16), youngest European Tour winner (17). Still a teenager, Manassero acknowledged that it's been somewhat tougher in his third year as a pro. He hasn't been back to the Masters since his debut and he failed to qualify for this year's British Open. His last title had come last April at the Malaysian Open. ''It's been very frustrating at times,'' he said. ''I had to be more clear in my mind thinking that I started my career really well, but it's very early. I've got many years. This is the time in which I really need to step my game up, make technical changes and adjusting myself. ''I didn't have some great results for something like a year, a little ups and downs. Obviously, it was frustrating.'' Both he and Oosthuizen had a number of chances to put distance between one another in the final round. Down three strokes on the front nine, Oosthuizen put pressure on Manassero with three straight birdies on the 9th, 10th and 11th holes to pull even at 13 under. But he then gave two strokes right back by bogeying his next two holes. The Italian, meanwhile, was steady, if not spectacular. He made par on 10 straight holes before finally slipping up on the 15th, where he hit his approach shot well short and two-putted for bogey. He also barely missed a 25-footer for birdie on No. 17. This time, Oosthuizen was able to capitalize. He perfectly placed his approach on the 18th within two feet of the pin and sank the birdie putt, taking his first outright lead of the day. Manassero responded, however, by hitting a big drive off the tee on the 18th and then getting close enough with a 60-foot putt to make birdie himself to force the playoff. Both players birdied the first playoff hole on the 18th before Oosthuizen blew his 4-foot putt on the second hole. Oosthuizen was playing for more than just his third title of the year - he was one of the few golfers who could still theoretically catch McIlroy in the European Tour money chase. But since the South African didn't win the title, McIlroy's third-place finish was enough to seal the title heading to the Dubai World Championship.
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