(Reuters) - Matteo Manassero came up short in his bid to win the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco on Sunday, a victory that would have secured him a place at next month's U.S. Masters.
Manassero, 18, was seeking his third European Tour title to ensure his world ranking of 61 would improve enough to be in the top 50 by early April, guaranteeing the Italian a berth at the April 5-8 Masters at Augusta.
The youngster started the final round in the lead but labored to a level-par 72 as Northern Irishman Michael Hoey shot a brilliant 65 in the group ahead to win by three strokes on 17-under 271, his fourth tour victory.
Hoey started with a 74 but a second-round 67 and consecutive 65s swept him up the leaderboard. Ireland's Damien McGrane (70) finished second ahead of three others on 13 under and Manassero in a group a shot further back.
On his Masters debut as an amateur two years ago, the 16-year-old Manassero became the youngest player to make the cut, finishing tied 36th and delighting the crowds. He did not qualify for last year's tournament.
(Writing by Tom Pilcher in London, Editing by Ed Osmond)