Matteo Manassero joined Callaway this year and he’ll test out “a full 14 clubs” for the first time at Durban Country Club this week, where 36 European Tour winners are competing at the $4-million Volvo Golf Champions tournament.
“My Twitter account went a little crazy yesterday, because I was announced as a Callaway player,” he said. “There was quite a change over this winter and I’m really happy with the way this whole process has been going.”
In 2012 Branden Grace matched the record of Seve Ballesteros when he won four times in his maiden European Tour season, and he did it with Callaway clubs. Manassero, on the other hand, was a Titleist player for his first four years on tour, during which time he won four times.
“There was this big change in going from Titleist to Callaway, so I had to do that and work on that to be ready for this week,” said the 20-year-old Italian prodigy. “It can’t be all that quick, but I was able to put some work in at home.”
Durban Country Club has tight fairways and accuracy off the tee is crucial for success. Last year Jamie Donaldson peppered his four rounds with 25 birdies, but failed to contend because he made at least one double bogey each day. The Welshman’s big numbers, in spite of his otherwise good scoring, reveal the trickiness of the Grand Old Lady, which sits 100 metres from the Durban coastline and has plenty of crosswind holes.
Manassero, who finished tied ninth at the Volvo Golf Champions last year, had his own thoughts on the course.
“It’s a course that suits my game pretty well – not many drivers off the tee and you have to be very smart around here. It’s all about having confidence in where the ball starts from the tee. There are many birdie chances if you are in the fairway,” the young star said.
He’ll bear that in mind as he contends under the no-cut format of Volvo’s limited-field event, which guarantees that he’ll get four tournament rounds to trial his new equipment.
“It’s the best tournament to start a season with,” said Manassero. “There are very few players and there is no pressure of the cut. You can just play four rounds of golf and get into the tournament mood. We need to get it back as quickly as possible and this is a perfect way to do that.
“I will probably start with 14 clubs on Thursday and it shows that I’ve been trying everything and it all suits my game. I’m really happy to be part of this team.”