European Tour Week 13

The Trophée Hassan ii Trophy

By Lewis Pacelli

With one of the coolest trophies in sporting history, it would be a shock if everyone didn't try extra hard to get their hands on that sword

With one of the coolest trophies in sporting history, it would be a shock if everyone didn’t try extra hard to get their hands on that sword

The Tour moves to northern Africa this week as The Trophee Hassan II is held at the Golf du Palais Royal in Agadir, Morocco.  What is very exciting for all European fans is the fact we are slowly edging towards the tour finally arriving in Europe.  It is the ‘European’ Tour after all.  Better still, the tee-times are at a normal hour for everyone in Europe, so you don’t have to get up at silly o’clock to watch a tournament in Asia with more rain than birdies.The event itself was only fully established on Tour in 2010, however this course was not used until 2011, when David Horsey won. That was followed by Michael Hoey claiming the title last year.

The course is one of real beauty, lying in behind the walls of the Royal Palace and it is the beloved joy of Prince Moulay Rachid who can pretty much play on it when he wants.

“You can tell from the conditioning of the course that we are in the King’s garden – it is very beautiful and is just in immaculate condition so we cannot complain about the course this week!”

Rafa Cabrera-Bello this week

Measuring at 6,800 yards, it is quite an interesting challenge with iron play seeming to be most crucial.  After his victory last year, Hoey claimed that he only won because he kept finding the fairway and giving himself a chance.  GIR will be vital on very small greens and as it often is on the European circuit, putting will be the difference between 1st and 6th.  Although as Hoey said, get it on the fairway first…

The field is relatively strong with a handful of players knocking on the door of the world top 50 and a last chance to get into the first major of the year at Augusta. Which is only TWO weeks away now! Stephen Gallacher (64th), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (65th), Marcel Siem (72nd), Richie Ramsay (73rd) and Scott Jamieson (74th) are the five golfers who will have every ambition to have a good week and find themselves at The Masters.  Keep a keen eye on all of them throughout the 4 days.

Francesco Molinari has established himself as the outright favourite which is quite criminal considering his recent form, but we really feel anyone could win this tournament, there are plenty of capable players but there are certainly a few names who we feel will make a big challenge.

Pablo Larrazabal (28/1 StanJames and Bet365)

Larrazabal and his irons could be a real force this week

Larrazabal and his irons could be a real force this week

The Spaniard has been slowly making his mark this season, with solid performances throughout 2013, resulting in a battling showing in Malaysia last week where he finished T6.  He has caught our eye a few times, but it has never seemed to be the right course or moment for us to lay our money.  However this week is a perfect fit, especially due to the fact he will be full of confidence and desperately trying to add a 3rd title to his cabinet after a winless season last year.  His iron play has the potential to stand out in this field, 11th for GIR last week in horrendous conditions, 6th at the Avantha Masters, whilst he is 23rd overall.  And his putting is improving after finishing 59th in the rankings at the Avantha to 37th in Malaysia.  All in all this is a pro on the rise and if he gets his game going as we know he can, he really should be in the fold come Sunday, especially at a course where he finished 9th last year

David Horsey (33/1 PaddyPower)

David Horsey won this event in 2011 after showing his bottle in a 3-man playoff between Rhys Davies and Zaco Van Zyl.  Last year he finished 14th, 4 shots off 3rd and what would have been a place return.  Basically he loves this course.  Whether it be the gorgeous conditions, the perfectly laid fairways or even the sight of a Royal Palace in the background, Horsey has simply got his game going here.  This year the tournament has come around at an interesting time for the Englishman.  He started 2013 in bizarre fashion, with not one round under par in Abu Dhabi, before showing signs of inconsistency over the next few months.  One round he would be scintillating, with a low score, before frustratingly shooting over par the next.  This fluctuated until the Avantha Masters two weeks ago, where a level par first day was followed by 3 superb rounds in the 60s.  He eventually finished T6 and his putter was burning hot.  17th for putts per GIR and 5th for putts per round meant he could climb the leaderboard and although his GIR have been poor this year, we don’t think anything equates for the confidence he would of gained and have going to a place he loves.

Maximilian Kieffer (66/1 SkyBet)

In 2010 Rhys Davies won this title in his first year as a Challenge Tour graduate.  We see no reason why Kieffer cannot do the same and at the very least compete when it comes to Sunday.

Maximilian is a cracking name. And he is a cracking player

Maximilian is a cracking name. And he is a cracking player

As one of our ‘Players to watch’ he has impressed in his debut season, missing the cut only once in eight attempts and recording a lowest finish of T37 in the other 7.  He has been remarkably consistent but we feel it is time for the German to attack the top 10 and better his T4 at The Nelson Mandela Championship in December.  He has a wonderful all-round game and from tee to green he rivals anyone on Tour.  18th in driving accuracy and 26th GIR show his potential, whilst on his last outing at the Avantha he was 8th GIR and 37th putts per GIR.  Obviously he has not played here before but this will not stop a plucky German who seems to have no fear in any tournament he finds himself in.

Mikko Ilonen (66/1 Bet365)

Mikko Ilonen will arrive in Morocco feeling confident after a strong showing in Malaysia last week and knowing this is a favourite country of his.  He finished T17 last year with 4 solid performances and in 2011 a round of 64 was enough to end T7. Had it not been for a first day 72, who knows where the Fin could have ended.  What is exciting is how good he was on the greens last week.  He eventually finished T17 but he was 3rd for putts per GIR and 5th for putts per round and when you think he was 53rd GIR, you realise how many putts he holed.  If he can get his irons working than he has the accuracy and distance off the tee to make a real challenge this week.

Madsen is a very calm character. Such poise

Madsen is a very calm character. Such poise

Morten Ørum Madsen (125/1 Bet365)

Another Tour graduate who has made some steady progress in his debut season, Madsen is a player who hails from the same Danish club as a DownThe18th favourite – Thomas Bjørn.  When your idol is ‘Mr.Rain’ himself, then the potential for greatness is unquestionable.  The man has taste. In all seriousness, the Dane has an interesting e/w shout for this tournament in Morocco.  On his last outing at the Tshwane Open he shot 3 consecutive rounds in the 60s, finishing in a very respectable T8, which followed a T20 at the Africa Open the week before.  His all-round abilities at the Tshwane were there for all to see, driving consistently over 300 yards and finding the fairways a remarkable 87% of the time. (4th overall) Yes the fairways were kinder, but to be hitting it that long and straight is very dangerous, especially when he was 39th GIR and 12th for putts per GIR.  There is certain ability there for a top 5 finish and with his accumulated stats over the season, you cannot ignore Madsen at his odds. 3rd in driving accuracy, 43rd for putts per round and 7th for driving distance.  In reality he could drive a couple of the par 4’s and really attack the five par 5s.

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