European Tour: Trophee Hassan II Preview

Golfer admires his shot

We take a look at this week's European Tour event - the Trophee Hassan II - which is set to take place at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salem from 19 April - 22 April. 

The European Tour crosses the pond this week, switching from Spain to Morocco for the Trophee Hassan II. This event was first staged in 1971, beginning life as a limited field invitational event with no actual tour affiliation.

It remained that way for almost 40 years until a radical format overhaul in 2010 was greeted with full European Tour status. The event was staged at the Golf du Palais for five years between 2011 and 2015 but moved back to current venue- Royal Golf Dar Es Salem- in 2016.

Trophee Hassan II | 19 April - 22 April | Royal Golf Dar Es Salem, Rabal, Morocco

The Red Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salem is an imposing, 7,615-yard monster designed by Robert Trent-Jones. It has kikuyu fairways and is a tree-lined layout, with typically undulating greens. Course architect James Duncan renovated the greens since last year, with generally enlarged greens offering a greater variety in pin placements. The course has historically tricky rough and putting has proved pivotal in recent incarnations of the event. Despite the enormous length, Molinari’s victory last year seems to suggest that driving distance shouldn’t be a huge factor this week.

Paul Dunne leads the markets, at a low 12/1 if you were to ask me. Elsewhere the likes of Joost Luiten and Alex Levy will be looking to get back into the swing of things following encouraging starts to the season. Thomas Pieters has struggled since that excellent showing at the WGC in Firestone last season. He will no doubt attract large galleries and will be hoping that his undoubted length off the tee will work in his favor this week.

Past Winners
2017: Eduardo Molinari (-9) *playoff
2016: Jeunghan Wang (-5) *playoff 
2015: Richie Ramsey (-10)
2014: Alejandro Canizares (-19)
2013: Marcel Siem (-17)

To Win Outright: 
Paul Dunne 12/1 | Joost Luiten 16/1 | Alex Levy 18/1 | George Coetzee 18/1 | Thomas Pieters 18/1

Value Bets

Pablo Larrazabal- To Win 22/1, To Place 48/10
Larrazabal is a man with excellent Moroccan form and is a proven winner on the European Tour with four titles. He contended here last season before a disappointing final round saw him drop all the way down to a share of 13th. That happened to come in the wake of Sergio’s victory at Augusta, and perhaps he will be similarly buoyed by Jon Rahm’s heroics in Spain last week. He played well last week, managing to shake off some of the rust following the European Tour’s brief hiatus. That break couldn’t have really come at a worst time, as he had three top five finishes in four starts prior to that. His wit in the short game department should stand him in good stead with the recontoured greens this week.

Robert Rock- To Win 66/1, To Place 14/1
Robert Rock will be hoping to emulate last year’s victor Eduardo Molinari by reentering the winner’s circle after a long, barren period. Rock has looked in decent form of late, with a T7 in Oman coupled with a T12th at the Indian Open. His respectable T28th in Spain last week included an outstanding 65 in the second Round. He also has course form, with a third place finish in 2016 on the back of a T7th in 2010- which was the last edition played here before the event relocated to Golf du Palais for five seasons. He also has great putting stats this season, which should be a huge positive this week: he currently sits 4th in strokes gained putting on the European Tour.

Renato Paratore- To Win 66/1, To Place 14/1
Paratore sits at an attractive price and brings great course form to the table. He has finishes of eighth and 10th in the last two events respectively. Paratore’s golf perfectly fits the template of the broader Italian caricature: it’s often erratic but prone to moments of brilliance. He had an excellent T4th finish in the highly competitive Qatar Masters earlier this season, and his T21 finish in Spain last week indicates that his game is in good shape entering an event that he has a fondness for.

The Man to Beat- George Coetzee- To Win 18/1, To Place 39/10
One can’t ignore the affable South African at present, especially after that thunderous 9 under finish in Spain last week. Coetzee is probably putting better than anyone at present on the European Tour, and he brings outstanding form into this event. His form figures read 13-8-1-4, with that victory coming at the Tshwane Open. He has always been something of the nearly man in South African golf, languishing in the shadows of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace in recent years. He should be a strong contender in a field that is sorely lacking for razzmatazz.

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