Trophee du Hassan
A preview and best bets for this week's European Tour event - the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco
By Dave Tindall Twitter: @DaveTindallgolf. Last Updated: 11/03/14 5:27pm
The distinctive Palace walls
The European Tour travels to northern Africa this week for the fifth staging of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.
For the fourth year in a row, the tournament is being held at Golf du Palais Royal, a Robert Trent Jones senior creation close to the Atlantic Ocean.
The 27-year-old layout can become extremely testing when the wind blows and that's the forecast for the final round.
Golf du Palais Royal was first part of the European Tour during the 1990s when it hosted the Moroccan Open for six straight years.
After a gap of 12 seasons, it returned to the schedule in 2011 when it shared hosting duties with Golf De L'Ocean.
Three years ago the pros played 18 holes at De L'Ocean which was dropped for the 2012 event and remains off the agenda again this year.
Sky Sports will have live coverage of this event for all four days.
The Golf du Palais Royal is a 6,951-yard par 72 with small greens protected by deep bunkers. Water is in play on 1, 5, 10, 12 and 14 while the course is surrounded by majestic walls that stand in front of the Atlantic Ocean. Speaking about this venue, last year's winner Marcel Siem told europeantour.com: "Playing inside the palace walls gives it a special feel to the week. Usually when you're that close to the ocean you would expect the course to be linksy, so it's got to be one of the very few tree-lined courses in the world which is right on the coastline. Every hole is a different challenge, so I love thinking my way round the course."
The four winners here since the event gained European Tour status are Rhys Davies (2010), David Horsey (2011), Michael Hoey (2012) and Marcel Siem (2013). The winning scores from 2010 to 2013 were -25, -13, -17 and -17 while the last three champions already had at least two Tour wins to their name before taking this trophy so experience does count.
Marcel Siem poses with the trophy dagger after winning last year
Lowest rounds at Golf Du Palais Royal
61 Jamie Donaldson (2012), 62 Thomas Bjorn (2011), 64 four times (including Marcel Siem and Pablo Larrazabal last year).
There are some very obvious candidates this week as long as the form book holds up.
David Horsey has a win here in 2011, a second place year and has recent form figures of 10th and 3rd.
Mikko Ilonen finished second in Qatar and fifth in Dubai in his last two strokeplay starts and has course form of 2-17-7-3.
George Coetzee finally won his first European Tour event last month and was 16th in a world-class field in last week's Cadillac. His one appearance here produced a fourth place.
Pablo Larrazabal, who captured the prestigious Abu Dhabi Golf Championship earlier this year, was ninth on this track in 2012 and fourth last year, aided by a second round 64.
The prices on that quartet are 16/1 Horsey, 16/1 Ilonen, 16/1 Coetzee and 22/1 Larrazabal.
As noted above, the last three winners of this event had already scored at least two previous Tour wins and Horsey (2), Ilonen (3) and Larrazabal (3) all tick that box.
The winner could very well come from that four but, at double the odds of the first three, there's another multiple European Tour winner who catches the eye.
Edoardo Molinari won three times in an incredible 2010 season which helped him book his place on Europe's Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor.
Injury and loss of form have hampered him since then but this year has seen a real return to form and in his last three starts he's recorded a ninth in the Dubai Desert Classic and a 10th in the Tshwane Open last time.
Edoardo Molinari: Coming right back to form
He's carded a 65 in each of his last three tournaments so something is brewing and it could all come to the boil here.
The Italian has played here twice and on debut in 2012 he finished sixth so he has some reassuring course form to draw upon too.
Take him at 33/1.
Also at a nearly twice the price of the obvious market leaders is Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
He's a two-time European Tour winner so meets that criterion and he's been in excellent form in the early months of 2014.
The Spaniard was fourth in Abu Dhabi and third in Qatar in back-to-back weeks and last time out was eighth going into the final round of the PGA Tour's Puerto Rico Open before fading to 24th.
He hasn't done anything of note in this event but two looks at the course will help and he has the class to beat this modest field.
Simon Dyson is a six-time European Tour winner and has played some decent golf since coming back to action following his breach of the rules at the BMW Masters in China last December that led to a fine and a suspended ban.
The Yorkshireman was 16th in Qatar and 20th in Dubai on the Middle East Swing and last time out finished 10th in the Tshwane Open.
His one start here produced a tied 29th three years ago but he's had lots of success by the sea on linksland so this should be a good event for him.
2pts e.w. Edoardo Molinari at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Rafa Cabrera-Bello at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Simon Dyson at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)