Manassero Opens Up About His Return To The Big Time

This week Matteo Manassero said farewell to the Challenge Tour after playing his way back onto the DP World Tour. The Italian lost his card in 2018 but, given his profile and previous wins, he still managed 18 starts on the main tour the following season.

Then he would make just a solitary cut and earn less than €7,000 from a game in which he had earned more than €1.5m in his successful seasons. In this week's Player Blog he opened up about his struggles after a season where he has won twice, in Denmark and on home soil, on the Challenge Tour.

"The toughest period was when I stepped away from golf in 2019 for a few months. I literally couldn’t play anymore. Golf had become too heavy on me. That was a tough realisation. I had always played golf in a free and joyful way but I knew I had to rebuild myself. Part of that was playing some events on the Alps Tour. At the time I felt that was where I needed to be to restructure my game," explained the 30-year-old.

"I couldn't restructure everything while playing at the top of European golf. It wasn’t realistic to expect that while competing at the Italian Open or the PGA Championship at Wentworth, tournaments that mean so much to me. I needed to go down the levels and really have time to build my game up again and to have consistency and trust in my approach, not something that would come every now and then. That was always the idea, at least.

"While it was mentally challenging, I knew I didn’t want to give up on those feelings I had created before. I also had people that allowed me to keep on working and gave me enthusiasm to work. It took time and I guess I had good resilience."

Manassero now works with former Ryder Cup player Soren Hansen and the Dane has overseen some overall improvements while Manassero's wife, Francesca, has been on the bag for the two wins.

"I wouldn't say there is anything specific technically that has made me improve. I have been more consistent tee to green this year, although I had a few weeks where I didn't feel good at all. My putting has also improved a lot. I think that enabled my game to be under less stress and obviously made me capitalise on the chances that I had in the two tournaments that I ended up winning.

"My wife was my caddie for both of my victories. She was a big help both weeks, putting me in the right frame of mind, offering me the right perspective on the situation and not getting too involved in shot selection. Put simply, she was just there for me. You smile together, you laugh, you talk and there is more to just being extremely intense and focused on the outcome of every shot, which at least for me can become a little bit too much.

"She isn’t going to become a full-time caddie for me. It just wouldn’t be the right balance for us but there are certainly things I have learned that I need from a caddie going forward that I probably wouldn’t have considered before. I’ve realised that having someone alongside me who keeps me in a relaxed mindset is massive for the flow and freedom of my game."

Ten years ago Manassero won the PGA Championship at Wentworth which was his fourth victory. He was inside the top 30 in the world and he seemed set for the Ryder Cup as well as a good bet for the Majors – in 2010 he became the youngest player ever to make the cut at The Masters at just 16 years and 11 months and 22 days.

"I'm a very different person to 10 years ago. I see golf in a different way. Sometimes I don't even remember what I used to do back then. What really is helpful for me right now is the structure I have created, the team I have around me. They are making me perform well right now and they are the ones that are going to be there to try and help me take another step forward and another step forward because it could be never-ending.

"The Matteo that was 18 years old is gone. While it may have appeared I was forever at ease on the course in those early years of success as a professional, that was not the case. I know what it feels being stressed or being afraid about something that could potentially happen on a course. Making progress doesn't come from trying to recreate what I did 10 years ago. So, I think I will enjoy next season in some ways more than I did when I was on the DP World Tour years ago."