HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - Having a coach and mentor on your golf bag is always handy and it certainly proved beneficial for Matteo Manassero on Saturday as the young Italian rallied from an inauspicious start at the British Open.
The 21-year-old from Verona, already a four-times European Tour winner, dropped strokes at each of the opening two holes in the third round at Royal Liverpool.
Manassero was struggling to cope with the driving rain that was bouncing off the pristine green Hoylake fairways on the north west coast of England but a quick chat with his friend and caddie Alberto Binaghi quickly put him back on the right track.
The two men have known each other for more than a decade and Binaghi can also call on his experiences as a former European Tour player.
“I couldn’t get into any rhythm with my swing but it helped having my coach with me on the bag because he quickly told me I was moving a little too fast,” Manassero told Reuters in an interview after climbing into a tie for seventh position on 210, six under par.
“He doesn’t complicate things and tell me too much when we are out there on the course but he just notices a few things.
“With him on the bag it’s easy for me to adapt to what he says. He can’t be too technical or too specific while we’re out there but he knows what to say and when to say it.
“I quickly found my rhythm and it worked well today,” said Manassero after cramming seven birdies into the last 16 holes to return a 68 and move within 10 strokes of runaway leader Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.
The Italian youngster, who won the tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last year, was not at his very best on Saturday but said he made his putts when they mattered the most.
“I’m really pleased because it was the day I probably played the least good this week,” added Manassero.
“I played some loose shots on the front nine but I putted better than yesterday and that was the big difference,” said Manassero referring to his second-round 75.
Among his best efforts on the greens were birdie putts of 18 feet at the fourth hole and 20 feet at the sixth.
Manassero has struggled by his standards this season, sliding from 43rd to 69th in the world rankings, but he said a tie for fourth place at last week’s Scottish Open had given him fresh belief.
“I am playing much better now,” he explained. “I’m getting my confidence back and that’s all I need.
“Now it’s about grooving the changes I’ve made. When your rhythm is off you feel bad so when you find it again you have to do your best to keep it going.
“My takeaway is so important to me. My swing is kind of fast and if I take the club away too quick it all becomes difficult for me,” said Manassero.
“My strategy is usually the same. When I see the shots I try to attack, when I don’t I just play conservatively.”
Manassero is not one of the longest hitters on the tour and is slowly but surely trying to add some extra power to his game.
“My target now is to finish in the top five here,” he said. “I just want to play solid tomorrow and take my chances.”
Manassero tees off at 1410 local time in the last round of golf’s oldest major on Sunday in the company of world number one Adam Scott of Australia.
Editing by Tony Goodson