Manassero leads the way in Andalucia

Updated: March 16, 2012

Eighteen-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero equalled the course record with his first round at the Andalucian Open on Thursday.

The highly promising youngster made nine birdies and a single bogey for his 64 at Aloha Golf Club to finish on eight under par and move three strokes clear of his nearest rivals, Swede Niclas Fasth, English duo Anthony Wall and qualifying school graduate Lloyd Kennedy, South African Open champion Hennie Otto and local player Eduardo de la Riva.

At 63rd in the world rankings, Manassero still has a chance to climb into the top 50 should he win here this week, which would see him make the shortlist for automatic Masters qualification.

Six more players are tied for seventh on four under, one shot behind the chasing pack – Swede Joakim Lagergren, England’s Tommy Fleetwood, France’s Julien Quesne, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, South African Alex Haindl and Canadian Mike Weir, who has returned to Spain, scene of one of his most memorable victories at the 2000 American Express Championship, in an effort to rekindle his career following elbow surgery.

Abu Dhabi winner Robert Rock and tournament host Miguel Angel Jimenez were among a large group on three under, five shots off the lead.