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July 17, 2013

Matteo Manassero


MIKE WOODCOCK: Good afternoon, everyone. We'll get started. Matteo Manassero has joined us in the interview room this afternoon. Matteo, you've had a wonderful season, a fantastic win at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. And also had a great performance in the Open Championship back in 2009 at Turnberry, I believe it was, winning the silver medal. How much are you looking forward to this week at Muirfield?
MATTEO MANASSERO: A lot. I'm really looking forward to it because of the year that has been. So obviously the BMW PGA Championship put me in a great position in the rankings. That makes it even more challenging and a special year. So that's why every big event is very important. But this is an event that I care so much about for the memories that it gave me back not long ago, but in '09. And that certainly was one of the most incredible weeks of my life.
MIKE WOODCOCK: As a former amateur champion, you have great experience in links golf. That will presumably stand you in good stead this week. The course is running hard and fast.
MATTEO MANASSERO: Yes, absolutely. I'm kind of bringing back that game that I had as an amateur that I had to change a little bit for professional golf because we play at the most two weeks per year in these conditions. So I kind of had to fly the ball a little higher. So the trajectory changed. And things have changed and developed better than before. But I now have to bring those memories back of Turnberry and of '08, '09, in which I was playing a lot of links golf. And I was managing my way around links courses quite easily. And I was really enjoying it. So I guess being able to play in links last week was -- I needed more than three days to prepare this. And so last week was very important. That gave me like around nine days of links golf to get into The Open. And I think it was a very good move to rewind, take back very much.

Q. You've been a good player for a long time now, but how much of a boost was winning a tournament the size of PGA Championship this year?
MATTEO MANASSERO: A huge one. It was almost a Major field. We were missing the Americans, but all the Europeans were there. And it means a lot, that event, for us. And it means a lot for everybody, for every player that was there. It's a big tournament for us and we care a lot about us. Winning that one gives me, in myself, in my game, it gives me a lot of confidence for Majors, more than anything else. Just because if you win such a big event, then you know in yourself that you are competitive. And you don't always know that before winning a big event. You kind of think about it, am I or am I not? And after something like that, you're almost sure that you are.

Q. As a follow-up, this is a course which requires a lot of accuracy. This aspect probably plays into your great strengths. Is it a course that suits your eye?
MATTEO MANASSERO: I like it. Suits my eye for sure, and my game, too. I guess, pretty much everybody is going to hit it in the same spot apart from a few holes, which you can hit driver, so longer hitters are going to hit it longer, obviously. But all the rest of the holes it's like 6-iron for a long hitter, 4-iron for me. So we're all in the same position. And then playing on for there. So for sure that could be an important part of this week for me. And accuracy certainly is the main thing in Muirfield. But it definitely suits my eye. And as I said before, I've had the good preparation every day since I came to Scotland a week ago, has been improving and improving towards tomorrow. So that's what I was focused on, and that's what I put the effort on. I hope it's going to work because it's been a good preparation and I saw progress.

Q. How many times are you going to hit driver out there? Can you give us an idea of yardages. What sort of yardages you're hitting some of your irons?
MATTEO MANASSERO: Yeah, I was counting them yesterday. I think there are going to be five or six drivers. And I would probably be one of the few that hits the most drivers. So I don't think there will be anybody hitting more than six drivers. So that's probably the amount of drivers I'm going to hit and depending on the wind, I guess. But I put out just for this week I put a 2-iron in the bag that I'm going to use almost as much as my driver, four or five times, I think. And it doesn't fly much. It's got a very flat trajectory and it rolls a lot. So it goes probably, with no wind, it probably goes 260. But it carries like 210. So it carries between 210 and 220, and it goes, depending a little bit on where it pitches, 260 or 270. That's a really good club. If you hit the driver, you pitch 260, 270, but you lose almost 50 percent compared to the 2-iron rolling. So it's much better because of the shape of the course. It's in front of you and it's flat. But the ball rolls a lot. So wherever you pitch is going to roll forward, but it won't roll sideways. There's no hills, it's just flat, so that's why it's fair.

Q. As a follow-up, you've played a lot of links courses in the UK, have you ever played on a harder course than this, as far as fairways?
MATTEO MANASSERO: Not that I remember, really, no. I actually was thinking about it, definitely since I turned pro, never played on a course as hard as this. So that's almost four years. And I think Turnberry, from my memories, was very firm, but probably wasn't as firm as this. So very few times I've played in a course as hard as this, but I guess everybody in the field.

Q. What were the biggest changes that you had to get back when you started playing links again last week? What's the big adjustment, specifically? What did you have to do?
MATTEO MANASSERO: I think that the contact that you get from the ground with short irons. So 8, 9 and wedge, it's completely different. So once you're used to courses that -- once you hit the ball and then you get in the ground and the club keeps going in the ground and takes a big divot out. And it constantly does that. Then when you come here, you hit the ball, you hit the ground and then the club goes like that (indicating), rebounds off. And it takes completely consistent out. So you don't exactly know how the club reacts in the ground. It's not always the same. When it's really firm, it's very easy to kind of hit it clean and miss them on the right, which is very often happens. So just that, memories of links ground. And then putting from 30 yards from the green, 20 yards from the green, putting up slopes, and things like that. Those are things that we never do. Just take the 58 out, chip it, spins, and it's around there. So it's a completely different mindset.

Q. How does the different reaction from the ground affect the ball play?
MATTEO MANASSERO: It comes out lower and with more spin. So it doesn't fly as much. And then it's got one really big bounce the first one and then it checks. But that's not really a shot that you can control a lot. So if you can take less divot and hit a little more clean and still make it fly well, that's the best -- it's the most consistent you're going to get. So I tried to get that back. And that's the thing that took me more time to adjust to. But, yeah, I guess, you know, it's very often that we see shots with a wedge, with wind behind, that they don't fly, they don't go, they just go (indicating), and then the wind knocks it down, and then they bounce a lot. That's not under control.

Q. I remember asking you in Spain last year about your lifestyle and how you try to keep it all nice and ordinary. How difficult is it to maintain that with the success you've had? And secondly, you also told me that you can only drive a small car?

Q. Are you anywhere near a Ferrari yet?
MATTEO MANASSERO: No, nowhere near. I guess the lifestyle is what you make of your life, you know. So I get to do so many great things, and I get the crowd to cheer me many times. And you're going places like Wentworth and there's 20,000 people watching you, that's definitely not a normal lifestyle. So that's a part of my life. But whatever I can choose, I choose to do it normally. And that's my lifestyle. It's not that I choose a small car, I act to choose a small car, but I'm not going to go anywhere near a Ferrari.

Q. How many more years until you can buy one?
MATTEO MANASSERO: We'll see. At least three or four.

Q. You got the chance to play with Tom Watson when you won a silver medal at Turnberry. Have you had a chance to see him this week?
MATTEO MANASSERO: Yes, very briefly this morning. I was walking out of the range, he was coming in. And, yeah, said hello, and he said, "Keep yourself out of the bunkers and you'll be fine." That's the tip that he gave me.

Q. What was the best memory of playing with him?
MATTEO MANASSERO: Best memory of the week it was obviously the best moment I can picture is when we both made a really long putt and then we high-fived. That was a great moment. But in general it was great to see how well he was handling everything. And obviously with that experience he was so relaxed, so nice. Such a nice attitude. And that's the thing that impressed me the most that I can still remember, straight away. And try actually to imitate because I thought it was a great attitude.

Q. Sorry for the American question here, but I'm a little lost on this big car/small car thing, can you explain?
MATTEO MANASSERO: For one year, once you get your license, for one year you can only drive a reduced -- well not reduced, but small engine.

Q. How small? Like a bike?
MATTEO MANASSERO: I actually don't know that.

Q. Do you have your license?

Q. You know how to drive a car?
MATTEO MANASSERO: You can come and you judge (laughter). But I'm safe.

Q. The other question I would ask, we've had what you did in your teenage years, and Jordan Spieth from America at age 19 we've had 20-year-olds get their card. A 14-year-old play in the Masters. At what point are we getting at a stage, what age does someone have to be before someone says, wow, this guy is really young?
MATTEO MANASSERO: That's a good question. I think definitely 14 was, wow, that's very young. So we can set that. And we can set it there. 15 would be still, wow, that was very young. And when I was 16 at the Masters, that was, wow, he's very young. So I think 16, it's very young. But it all depends on what you do with that. Obviously you can end up in The Masters at 14. But when you make the cut and you play like he did, that shows so much. Even at 14 years old he can do what he did, being so focused and so well prepared and very methodical. It was incredible for his age. Definitely that's just a number. He's not that age, you know what I mean? He was 14, but he didn't act for sure like a 14-year-old. So there are guys they actually are at that age but they're forward.

Q. How old do you feel?
MATTEO MANASSERO: How old do I feel? I feel 20. I feel 20 but at 20 years old I started really early to make great experiences. Outside the golf course I feel 20. Probably inside the golf course, when I see the other 20-year-olds that play on the national team, I definitely feel older than them, because I had a chance to make something really special. And was probably intelligent to learn from it.

Q. Do you look at Rory, does he look like 24 to you or does he look like 30?
MATTEO MANASSERO: I can tell you he definitely looks like 24, absolutely. I know him, so I can tell you, he's 24 years old. Then, of course, I guess you don't perfectly see everything. You don't see everything of us, and we show a very mature side of us, because we're here working. And so probably for that reason we look a little older. But that's even why we can perform well, being very young.

Q. How old does Tiger look?
MATTEO MANASSERO: His age. (Laughter).

Q. Please pardon another uninformed American question, but how popular is golf in Italy? Is the game just for the few or is it growing in mass popularity? And are you, yourself, recognized and well known in Italy?
MATTEO MANASSERO: I think it's a little in between. It's not anymore for a few, but it's not popular. I think it needs a step forward to be popular, but it's not anymore a game only for a few, for sure, because it's now well known. You get people that once they wouldn't have had a clue, absolutely, wouldn't have had a clue about golf and now they follow it because obviously we've got good athletes in Italy, me and Francesco, and we're doing well constantly. So the interest in golf has grown so much. But I think there is still a lot to do to have way more people. And those people that watch it on TV, to get them to play, there is still a lot to do, I guess, from the Federation, to build some public courses and things like that, that people can easily get on a golf course without going through a gate or something like that.

Q. I've actually got an Italian question, as well: You are known as a very, very fast player. One of the fastest on Tour. Your compatriot Renato Paratore is incredibly fast and probably faster.
MATTEO MANASSERO: I got slower. I got slower.

Q. Is that something the Italians teach as juniors?
MATTEO MANASSERO: No, nobody taught that to anybody. He's very fast. And there is a few slower players in the national team, which I think they have to take care of that. But I was extremely fast four or five years ago, and now I got a little slower. I think it's a process, you know. But if you start like that, at 15, you're so quick, that's something that -- it's a good talent. It's important.

Q. He's quicker than you?
MATTEO MANASSERO: Yeah, for sure. I play a lot with him, so I know him, yeah. That's great.

Q. Ryder Cup coming up in Scotland in September 2014, is that something that's beginning to feature on your radar and your thoughts at all?
MATTEO MANASSERO: Yeah, yeah, for sure it's on my mind, yeah. I want to qualify for Gleneagles next year, and from September it's going to be a race between many great players. It's going to be really competitive. But that's great. The team that is going to be in Gleneagles is going to be a really strong team. And to qualify in it, it's going to be hard, but I'm focused on it, for sure. And I want to be at Gleneagles. I watched two, and the last two have been really inspiring -- have inspired me a lot. So I want to be in it next time.

Q. Any chance we'll see Italians on the team?
MATTEO MANASSERO: There are chances. Edoardo has improved his game so much, but he's been a little bit unlucky with injuries. But there's still time. So if he sorts that out, he can do it. And Francesco is, how do you say, is like for sure -- we're sure about what he's going to do. And I think he will make the team. So there is a possibility. That would be special.
MIKE WOODCOCK: Matteo, thank you for coming in. Best of luck this week.

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