Matteo seeks Ryder Cup boost at Fota

Defending BMW PGA Championship champion Matteo Manassero believes making this year’s European Ryder Cup team would be an amazing achievement and is hoping the Irish Open will help him achieve the feat.

Matteo seeks Ryder Cup boost at Fota

The 21-year-old Italian star has struggled to hit the heights he reached when winning the European Tour’s flagship event a year ago at Wentworth, with a tie for 10th at the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa in January his best result of this season so far.

As he returns to defend his BMW PGA title tomorrow, he has the added incentive of a place on Paul McGinley’s team in late September to spur him on for the summer.

Manassero, whose caddie is Pádraig Harrington’s former bagman Dave McNeeley, believes playing Fota Island Resort from June 19-22 and bidding for Irish Open glory can help him reach that goal, saying: “It would be an amazing achievement if I would make the Ryder Cup team, especially because it’s such a hard team to make and because I didn’t start so well.

“So that’s why I choose to play the Irish Open. I played it in Portrush [in 2012] and the year before [in Killarney].

“There is always a very good atmosphere there. I’ve never played that course [Fota] but my caddie is Irish and I asked him about it and he says it’s a really good course. So I think it’s going to be a great week.

“I didn’t think too many times before I put it in my schedule. It was pretty easy.”

Manassero’s struggles after winning at Wentworth last May were founded in swing issues rather than a victory hangover and the Italian said he believes he was finally in a good place to contend again.

“I changed a few things that are now starting to work. I tried to keep developing my game and keep improving and that’s probably why I ended up not scoring that well.

“The win had nothing to do with it, more about the changes I wanted to do in order to start striking the ball a little better.

“I was disappointed with the end of last year... frustrating, let’s put it that way.”

Rory McIlroy’s frustrations appear now to be less about finding the form that deserted him last season but more about converting that into a first victory since the December 2013 Australian Open.

The world No 10 makes his first start since a tie for sixth place at TPC Sawgrass in The Players Championship, his fourth consecutive top-10 finish and ninth of the current season. It is form that has made him co-favourite this week alongside Lee Westwood, despite missing the cut here in the last two years.

Form around Wentworth like that prompted Graeme McDowell to skip this week’s event, having missed three cuts in a row, but there is still plenty of Irish interest in addition to McIlroy, with Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Michael Hoey, Simon Thornton, Gareth Maybin, Damien Mooney, Damien McGrane and McGinley all teeing it up.

The Ryder Cup captain will be keeping tabs on potential team members for Gleneagles, with Sweden’s Jonas Blixt, making his Wentworth debut this week, very much on his radar following his tie for second at last month’s Masters.

Predominantly US-based, Blixt, 30, still has to play the minimum number of 13 European Tour events to be considered for McGinley’s team but the Swede is certainly keen to make an impression on the Dubliner.

“I’m trying to get hold of him,” Blixt said. “We were supposed to meet at Sawgrass, never got the chance to do it there. We were supposed to meet this Monday but our flights were delayed so I got here a day later and missed him. Hopefully I get to meet him this week. He seems like a great guy and I would love to play for him.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox