Italy’s Matteo Manassero Takes Shock Early Lead At Star-Studded Saudi International
Manassero took advantage of perfect scoring conditions to shoot a brilliant opening round of 62 at the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers. Red-hot putting display alongside some laser irons paved the way for a round that included eight birdies and a two-shot lead at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
Italian Matteo Manassero took advantage of perfect scoring conditions in Saudi Arabia to shoot a brilliant 62 at the opening round of the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers. A red-hot putting display, alongside some laser irons, paved the way for the 28-year-old’s eight-under – a round that included eight birdies to give him a two shot lead at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
“It was one of those days in which everything was going my way. I was playing really solid, giving myself a lot of birdie chances, a lot of really short ones,” said Manassero. “Nine-under would have been my lowest score in competition, so I did try to make that putt on 18, but I misread it. This is the first tournament I’m out with this new putter which I changed during lockdown. I’m curious to see what 2022 has for me which has started well.”
Manassero was two shots clear of a pack of players on six-under that included Sam Horsfield (England), Adri Arnaus (Spain), Harold Varner III (USA), Ryosuke Kinoshita (Japan) and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (USA) at the flagship Asian Tour event.
“It’s crazy because we had all of this wind the practice rounds and then today was a lot less windy,” said Watson. “The golf course is a little easier without the wind so that made it better. With the wind set to come tomorrow we needed to get off to a hot start today – if we then hang on we could be close to the lead or top 10 going into the weekend.”
Defending champion Dustin Johnson’s superb form in Saudi Arabia continues, with the world number five kicking off his defence with a five-under 65. Playing alongside Johnson was the Asian Tour’s leading player, 19-year old Korean sensation Joohyung Kim, who also carded an impressive 65 on his Saudi International debut.
“I think I had some nerves in the first couple holes. But I got into a good mindset and felt calm after a couple holes,” said Kim.
“It was awesome (playing with Johnson) I hope the TV got my smiles because I was having the time of my life. It was awesome playing with those guys, and just a great experience. I told myself there’s a reason I’m playing with these guys, and I know I worked really hard to get to this point.”
US stars Matthew Wolff (-5), Patrick Reed (-4) and world number seven Xander Schauffele (3-under par 67) were other notable performances from the world’s top stars.
Othman Almulla was the leading Saudi Arabia player on Thursday with 3 over par, 73 with Saud Al Sharif and Faisal Salhab both on +5 as they look to make tomorrow’s cut.
“I think I take a lot of positives with some of the saves that I made to keep myself in it around par, and then just need to keep going and keep learning from these experiences,” said Almulla. “It’s all about being optimistic and looking forward to tomorrow, right? I can always do better.”
For more information about the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, visit www.saudiinternational.com.
International TV times for the tournament can be found here.