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Manassero back on birdie trail in Sweden


Italy's Matteo Manassero

Italy's Matteo Manassero

Italy's Matteo Manassero

Matteo Manassero opened up like a gunslinger in a Spaghetti Western, getting the drop on all but one of his rivals at the Nordea Masters as he started with six straight birdies.

His confidence soaring after last Sunday's superb sudden death victory at the BMW PGA, Manassero (20) blazed his way straight back onto the glory trail at Bro Hoff Slott Golf Club, near Stockholm.

The Italian admitted he still had been a tad fatigued after last weekend's excitement at Wentworth, when he became the youngest winner in the history of the European Tour's flagship event.

"But when I woke up this morning, everything was great. I really felt good as I prepared to hit my first tee shot," said Manassero after signing for the first round 66, which earned him a share of the lead with Spain's Pablo Larrazabal.

Still, those six successive birdies from the 10th, his first, even took him by surprise. "I've never started that well," said Manassero. "I was making putt after putt. It almost was strange because I'm not used to it."

A three-putt bogey at 17 brought him back to earth, but Manassero got back on the birdie trail by draining a 10-footer at one. Though he dropped another shot on five, he bounced back again at six, hitting a superlative wedged approach to 10 inches.

Manassero and Larrazabal led by one from Swedish favourites Alexander Noren and Fredrik Andersson Hed, Irish Open champion Jamie Donaldson of Wales and English duo Simon Wakefield and Chris Lloyd. Tour rookie Alan Dunbar and his near-neighbour in Portrush, Darren Clarke, were best of the Irish in 61st after even par 72s.

The Nordea Masters,

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Irish Independent