VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Matteo Manassero has endured a frustrating time since winning the BMW PGA Championship two years ago but is refusing to panic because he believes he is performing well enough to turn the corner.
The Italian burst on to the scene in 2010 by landing the Castello Masters title in Spain, becoming the youngest European Tour champion in history at the age of 17 years and 188 days.
Manassero underlined his immense promise by following up with victories at the Malaysian Open in 2011, the Singapore Open in 2012 and at Wentworth 24 months ago.
His career has stalled over the last couple of seasons, causing him to plunge from 25th in the world rankings to 307th, but the 22-year-old is certain a return to form is imminent.
“I want to get back to where I was and I think I can get back to where I was,” Manassero told Reuters in an interview after a flurry of third-round birdies gave him a three-under-par 69 and a two-under total of 214 at this year’s BMW PGA, the tour’s flagship event.
”I don’t want it desperately, I just want it to happen naturally. Right now I‘m ok with things and just trying to concentrate on getting back on track and playing good golf.
“I used to get frustrated with myself but I don’t any more because it just makes things harder and it puts more pressure on,” added Manassero.
“I‘m happy now that I‘m playing well and I think I can have a good season.”
Manassero was delighted with his showing on Saturday, firing five birdies in a stunning six-hole sequence on the front nine to help erase the memories of a disappointing three-over 75 in Thursday’s opening round.
”It was a good round,“ he said. ”It’s never easy to make a lot of birdies on this course.
”I started the week playing not so well so I‘m happy to see my game developing through the week. I played badly on the first day but managed to limit the damage.
”Hopefully tomorrow I can have a similar round and have a good score to finish up with. This is a special place and I‘m always happy to come here.
“I was upset at the start of the week because I couldn’t get any good feelings going. Sometimes you don’t start with good feelings and it’s good when you see them coming back.”
Manassero had to contend with a few swing issues at the beginning of his Wentworth campaign but he has managed to overcome them with some hard work on the practice range.
”I‘m feeling better with the swing the longer the week goes on,“ he explained. ”I’ve got a few things that I don’t always do well.
”When I don’t feel good I move the body too quickly and too early in my swing and my arms don’t follow. I kind of guide the swing.
“That wasn’t working at the start of the week but I’ve been working on it and it’s now much better.”
Manassero, who became the first teenager to win three times on the tour when he triumphed in Singapore, said his career ambitions had not changed despite his slide down the rankings.
“My expectations are still the same as before because I feel I am playing well now,” he explained.
“I‘m thinking about good scores, finishing tournaments well and trying to be in contention.”
Manassero is too far adrift to make a title challenge this week and is looking for BMW PGA leader Francesco Molinari to make it an Italian hat-trick following his own win in 2013 and Costantino Rocca’s victory in 1996.
“Hopefully Francesco will pull it off this weekend and we can have a third Italian to win this trophy. That would be amazing,” he said.
Editing by Douglas Beattie