AUGUSTA, Georgia (April 8, 2010) -- Italian sensation Matteo Manassero -- who narrowly edged Nathan Smith in amateurgolf.com's Facebook fan page low-amateur voting -- posted a fine 1-under par 71 at Augusta National on Thursday.
Playing in a featured pairing with Lee Westwood and 2003 champion Mike Weir, Manassero made three birdies and just two bogeys as he worked his way around the course like a veteran.
In the words of one commentator on masters.org:
"If you didn't know his age, and didn't see his face, you would never know that he was less than 25 by the decisions he makes on the golf course."
Indeed, the British Amateur champion, when faced with a tough shot on No. 18 from the right greenside bunker, used the hill behind the flag to get to within 7 feet from where he saved par.
Nathan Smith's round was a bit more exciting, to say the least. Through the first 12 holes, he had five birdies and three bogeys and stood at 2-under. He had finished the hardest two holes of "Amen Corner" and was looking at two par fives coming home, but Smith made four straight bogeys and a par at the last.
Benjamin, the left hander, made bogey on No. 9 to shoot 1-over on the front, but bounced back with a birdie at the 10th, and 8-straight pars coming home to put him in very good shape to post a solid Friday round and make the cut for the weekend.
26 of amateurgolf's fans picked Manassero as low amateur, while 24 chose Nathan Smith. Ben Martin was next with 9 votes, followed by Byeong-Hun An (3), Brad Benjamin (2), and Chang-won Han (1). All players with the correct pick will receive an amateurgolf.com Tour towel.
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First round amateur scores from the Masters Invitational follow:
-- 71 --
-- 73 --
-- 74 --
-- 75 --
-- 78 --
-- 79 --