Seventeen-year-old Matteo Manassero, one of the stars of last year’s Open, made a brilliant start today to his bid to be part of the action at St Andrews next month.
The young Italian star, now a month into his professional career, scored a six-under-par 64 on the Old Course at Sunningdale as he joined 95 others – Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie included – competing over 36 holes for 10 places at the Home of Golf.
It made him the early clubhouse leader one stroke ahead of England’s Paul Broadhurst and South African James Kingston.
Manassero finished in a tie for 13th at Turnberry as the reigning British amateur champion and at The Masters in April came joint 36th – the best finish by a European amateur at Augusta for 73 years.
He is now trying to earn enough this season to avoid a trip to the European Tour qualifying school and his bogey-free round was another boost to his confidence.
Montgomerie, runner-up to Tiger Woods the last time The Open was staged at St Andrews five years ago, turned in a three under 33 to keep his hopes alive of playing every year since his 1990 debut on the same course.
Nick Dougherty’s chances of making it through nosedived, however, after back-to-back triple bogey sevens on the adjoining New Course.
After twice going in the bushes at the 399-yard eighth Dougherty saw his attempted recovery from a greenside bunker on the next roll back down a slope to his feet.
He made sure of getting out next time, but then putted back into the same trap.
Far from throwing in the towel Dougherty came home in a five under 30 for a one over 71, but still had a massive amount of catching up to do in the afternoon round.
“That’s the way the cookie’s been crumbling lately,” said the Liverpool golfer.