Trophee Hassan II

The European Tour heads to Morocco for The Trophee Hassan II and it will be the 3rd time hosting in a row for Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Additionally it has also hosted the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open on the low-grade MENA Tour in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The field is probably of a similar standard to last week without the big local draw that Jon Rahm brought. That gives us Paul Dunne as the 12/1 favourite and that probably gives quite a clear picture of how open this is.

The course is a Robert Trent Jones track just like the previous host course from 2012-2015 so even the event form at Golf du Palais Royal is worth consideration. From what we have seen in the last two editions it is considerably harder than that course though and the two winning scores have been -9 and -5. It is an extremely tree-lined course with fairly small looking greens and that combined with its length (7487 yards) suggests that long, straight driving will be rewarded as will accurate approach shots. If someone brings both to the table then they will surely have a good week in Morocco. Despite the high scoring, the leaders here have also putted quite well and while that might not often be for birdie, with greens being missed there will be a lot of putts in the 5-10ft region for par and making them will be crucial to maintaining a score.

With Kikuyu collars and bentgrass greens, the tricky nature of chipping from kikuyu lies will make scrambling difficult. The grass also restricts the run out of the ball on the fairway so that will further highlight the need for length off the tee. It is also found mainly on South African golf courses so perhaps consideration should be given to those who regularly play well down in those co-sanctioned events.

There are very strong course form ties with last week’s course in Spain which is a little strange as the test doesn’t appear to be very similar at all. Last week’s was a grip it and rip it type birdie fest of a course where you would struggle to find trouble even if you were looking for it. While this week the winning score has been in single figures on both recent editions and par has generally been a good score. Yet Paul Dunne and Nacho Elvira have lost the last two play-offs here and they were your 2nd and 3rd last week. Further to that Ross McGowan has won on both courses and he is very far from prolific. On further inspection of the green complexes both courses feature very definite fringes rather than the sometimes more graded edges that we see. I wouldn’t have thought something like that can make too much difference but both Dunne and Elvira are excellent scramblers so it could be that the difficult combination of thick green side rough and fast greens are prevalent at both courses. So while current form is always key I’d make last week’s form doubly important this week.

I was just going to tip George Coetzee again when he opened at around 22/1 but sensibly he has been cut to a more realistic figure. That makes it hard for me to recommend a wager even if he did deliver the place money last week. I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off but with this almost turning into some sort of George Coetzee Appreciation column I think I have to leave him out given this his debut at the course.

Renato Paratore had the lowest round in the field here last year with a 3rd round 66 on his way to finishing 8th. He was also 10th the year before again firing 1 of only 22 rounds in the 60s. This is more than enough to suggest that he likes the course and he is of interest returning now as a European Tour winner. He warmed up nicely last week in Spain with a 21st and we know form correlates nicely. Prior to that he had a little bit of a break but before a missed cut in India he was 4th in Qatar, again another tournament where the form ties in with Wang having won around both. His 23rd around Valderrama last year confirms he is capable when presented with a sterner test of golf. Looks a huge price at 66/1 in this field and for me he has to be backed with most things in his favour and not a lot to beat.

Sebastien Gros was on my list after his closing 64 last week so I was pleased to see that I also tipped him here in 2016 for the first event back at RGDES. It was his long, straight driving that interested me 2 years ago as well as previous strong performances on kikuyu grass in South Africa. Both those apply again this week as he has ranked 14th, 7th and 1st in total driving on his last 3 starts. The most recent of those was last week’s 12th in Spain courtesy of said closing 64 and he ranked 10th in the all round stat. Three starts ago was another good result in South Africa where he was 4th at Pretoria Country Club on the kikuyu fairways. For good measure he ranked 1st in GIR here last year and he looks to be worth an interest in the hope that his putter behaves.

I couldn’t decide whether to side with Benjamin Hebert here after two mediocre results but he has had a good break since so I’m hoping he arrives prepared for a course he enjoyed last year. Along with Paul Dunne they were the only two players to shoot two rounds in the 60s and while Dunne has obviously moved to a new level since, Hebert has long looked like a player who has been threatening to win and also one who prefers a difficult test. He shot two poor rounds to go with the 68-69 last year but if he can limit those big numbers (2 doubles and a triple) then he should play well again. Hebert is 9th for total driving this season and 35th in GIR so the test should suit.

Andrea Pavan currently sits 1st in strokes gained: approaches on the European Tour so I was giving him some thought even before I saw his stats for last week. He ranked 2nd in GIR and 6th in scrambling and having touched on how the scrambling test may be similar, that is enough for me to add him in to my team this week. Throw in a 13th at Qatar last month and this test should really suit the young Italian.

Renato Paratore – 1pt ew @ 50/1

Sebastien Gros – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1

Benjamin Herbert – 0.5pt ew @ 80/1

Andrea Pavan – 0.5pt ew @ 150/1

(all 1/5 odds 6 places various)

2018 European Tour results prior to this week:
Advised = 66pts
Returned = 75.19pts
ROI = 13.9%

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