Female golfers have the edge in age battle says path-breaker Manassero

Record-holder says late development hinders male winners, writes Steve Elling.
Lydia Ko has broken into the top five, and she is only 17 with a promising future. Hunter Martin / Getty Images
Lydia Ko has broken into the top five, and she is only 17 with a promising future. Hunter Martin / Getty Images

How low can they go? Not on the scorecard, but their birth certificate.

Matteo Manassero, who at age 17 became the youngest player to win a European Tour event, is nonetheless amazed by the continued assault on the professional record books by players who seem to get younger each year.

In the latest example, Lydia Ko, 17, last month moved to No 2 in the women’s world rankings after winning on the LPGA tour.

Manassero, now 21, had four European wins by the time he was 20, and is the defending champion at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in England, which begins today.

“Amazing, huh?” Manassero said. “The best answer, it is almost impossible to tell.”

But having personally moved that record-setting yardstick, he can make an educated guess.

Developmental biology is the biggest factor, since females mature earlier, and power is not as integral to the female game. World No 6 Lexi Thompson, 19, played in a US Women’s Open at age 12 and now has four LPGA wins. Lucy Li has qualified for the US Women’s Open at 11 years.

On the men’s side, though, Manassero believes a barrier has likely been reached already.

While Jordan Spieth has been a revelation on the US tour, contending in top events at age 19 and 20, and Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang made the cut at the Masters last year at 14, certain physical obstacles appear insurmountable.

“Physically, the guys are going to find challenges,” Manassero said.

“You are going to get some extremely physically talented guys who are 14, but below that, to be competitive?

“It is going to get to an age in which the kids physically can’t perform. The strength issue is really important. You will always get some extremely mentally talented guys who are able to get it done, though they are 14 or 13 or whatever.

“Guan Tianlang, he was exceptional, he made the cut, so in the end he was there to compete on the weekend. That’s about the limit, around that age – and that’s for a very physically talented guy.”

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Published: May 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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