So after yet another delay plagued event in Malaysia we have capped off another week on the European Tour, with the event being reduced to a 54 hole event many players were not able to mount a charge and the trophy was won by an almost faultless Kiradech Aphibarnrat who had threatened to upset the apple cart just one week previous at the Avantha Masters finishing in 4th place. He fended off a charge from Edoardo Molinari who posted his best finish since his 6th last year here in Morocco. After the decision was made to cut the tournament to just three rounds this left just one of my tips with a chance of winning, Tommy Fleetwood. Unfortunately he could only shoot a level par 72 round on day 3 and finish on -8 in a tie for 11th, yet again the final round being some what of his Achilles heel. I truly believe Fleetwood will win on tour this year and I’m sure he will continue to improve on some of his high finishes early in 2013.
Moving on to this week the players face a challenge from Prince Moulay Rachid’s beloved golf course Golf Du Palais Royal, the course which located in Adagir, Morocco. The event itself has only been fully established on the European Tour since 2010 and in that time it has seen three British winners. First up was Wales’ Rhys Davies in 2010 who beat Louis Oosthuizen by two shots, with a final score of -25 however that was at a different venue The Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Since then the score has decreased dramatically with the last two winnings score being -17 in 2012 posted by Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and -13 in 2011 shot by David Horsey of England. The market leaders for this event are strong favourite Francesco Molinari at 12/1 followed by Rafa Cabrera-Bello coming in at a general price of 25/1. Had this of been last season I could see why Francesco Molinari would be such a short price as he was in some of the best form of his life making the cut in all 25 events he played, winning his 3rd event at the Open De Espana in the process, however 2013 has been a very different story. Although he finished T9 at the Volvo Golf Championship in January, since then he has had two below par performances at WGC events and a T34 finish at Bay Hill this past weekend. Even though this may not sound that bad Molinari would of expected a lot more, and although he tweeted yesterday claiming he was happy with his game I am not as convinced as others may be that this is his week. His last two finishes here in the Trophee Hassan were T17 in 2012 and T10 in 2010 (different venue) which proves he is suited to play in Morocco but in no means is a sure thing to win. I will be leaving him alone this week as I don’t think 12/1 offers enough value in his current form. So let’s try and find value elsewhere.
The Course: The Golf du Palais Royal is a fairly short course spanning at just over 6,800 yards. The Par 72 is relatively generous considering it’s length and iron play should be a big factor. With big hitting not being a major factor a lot of players will fancy there chances and their performances on and around the greens will as ever be what separates the best from the rest. Last years winner Michael Hoey bounced back from a below-average first round of 74 to shoot three consecutive sub-70 rounds, with a pair of 65s on the last two days. Two others in the top-5 (Robert Coles & Jamie Donaldson) both played in a similar fashion starting slowly and finishing very strongly, mainly Donaldson who shot a 61 on the last day. This proves that a slow start here won’t always have a big part in the outcome and proves that low scoring is definitely a possibility.
Defending Champion: Michael Hoey is no stranger to winning, he has won 4 European Tour titles and 4 Challenge Tour titles since his first win in 2005. Three of those events came in 2011, and two of those were in Portugal so this shows that he is a player who often finds form at preferred destinations. In relation to this week, Hoey has also won before his win here last year in Morocco, at a Challenge Tour event in 2008 the Banque Populaire Moroccan Classic. Apart from winning last year Hoey finished in a tie for 19th in 2011, this coming a year after posting a less than impressive 99th in 2010, following a terrible first round 80. He will look to defend his title this season and although he has made just three cuts in 2013, a top finish of 25th at the Volvo Golf Champions, it may be premature to write him off considering his reasonable price of 66/1 available at StanJames.
On top of all this, recent form will be a huge factor and many players are starting to show their hand leading up to some of the more attractive events in terms of prize money. With Brits having a great recent record here these players will have a keen interest in the increased prize fund at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May. We all know that players can go through a purple patch and some have started to do so. Taking all this into account I will try to help you find some great value on offer in Morocco and look for my first winner on the European Tour after some relatively unlucky results in previous weeks.
David Howell 33/1 (Ladbrokes, PaddyPower, William Hill) 1pt e/w: Although I have already tipped Howell on a couple of occasions this season with no success, I continue to have faith in his abilities and a big finish cannot be too far away. Howell is 9th in stroke average this season and has already posted three top 10s and an additional top 20. Howell topped the putting stats last week placing 1st in both Putts per Green in Regulation and Putts per Round, something that could be vital here in Morocco. He is starting to find some of his better form and as mentioned in previous weeks it looks as if his injury problems are as good as behind him for now. His price is slowly getting shorter and this is relative to his good play. I can’t see many reasons as to why he won’t be in contention again this week and he will hope to build on his best performance at this event which was T19 in 2010.
Garth Mulroy 40/1 (Ladbrokes) 1pt e/w: Mulroy is a player that has been consistent all season, making every cut and finishing in the top 20 in his last four tournaments and coming as high as 4th at the Africa Open. Although his last three tournaments were in his native of South Africa, he has also had a good showing in the Dubai Desert Classic finishing T15. It will be interesting to see how Mulroy gets on this week after a three week lay off. If he was to find his most recent form again 40/1 is a generous price and one that is worth taking a chance on, with only a handful of players playing at his standard so far this year.
Mikko Ilonen 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Ilonen is a big fan of the Trophee Hassan II and has enjoyed success here, coming in the top 20 on all of his last three attempts. Last year he finished T17, the year before T10 both at this venue however in 2010 he posted his best finish coming T3. Although this was at a different course he has proved three years in a row that he can play in Morocco and with his second best finish of the season last week, T17 at the Malaysian Open he will look to build on that, and his T9 at the Qatar Masters. He came in the top 5 for both putting stats last week and similar to Howell that could be a big advantage to him this week.
Robert Coles 200/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w: 2013 has not been a year to remember so far for Coles and current form is not a factor when it comes to picking him this week. The Trophee Hassan has been kind to Robert, no more so than last year when he came in a tie for 3rd, four shots short of eventual winner Michael Hoey. Prior to 2012, Coles also finished 37th in 2011 and 15th in 2010, one of his more consistent tournaments on his schedule each year. He will look to pick his season up soon and history shows this may be his best chance of doing so. A big price for someone who shows such consistency at the event and after coming tied 3rd in his most recent attempt it seems hard to ignore.
European Tour points staked this week: 8
Total points staked this week (inc PGA tips) : tbc
Profit/Loss for 2013: -18
After falling back in to minus figures in terms of profit, a win this week is more important than ever. Without a win each way value may be key and some of the prices reflect that. If you have any feedback or questions about anything to do with my blog you can always get in contact via Twitter @TomJacobs8