After an enforced break on the European Tour as the golfing elite have taken in the WGC Match Play Championship followed by The Masters, the European Tour is back this week with the only regular strokeplay event across both Tours with the PGA Tour’s pairs event in New Orleans offering a little respite to the schedule.
This event in Morocco has been part of the European Tour since 2010 and with 2 courses in use for this event since its inauguration, it’s important to note that we’re returning to the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam track outside of Rabat that hosted 3 rounds in 2010 and all 4 rounds for the past 3 years.
Despite not having had the opportunity to play much golf of late, the European Tour’s rank-and-file have hardly come flocking to Rabat this week with Joost Luiten heading the betting at 16/1 generally. 9 players then follow the Dutchman in the 25/1 to 30/1 bracket, including the likes of perennial bridesmaid Jorge Campillo, defending champion Alex Levy and the seemingly rejuvenated Victor Dubuisson, in what looks to be a wide open affair.
Red Course, Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, Rabat, Morocco. Designer: Trent Jones Senior, 1971 with Duncan renovation, 2017; Course Type: Classical, Parkland; Par: 72; Length: 7,557 yards; Water Hazards: 3; Fairways: Kikuyu; Rough: Kikuyu.
Course Overview. The Red Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam is a 7,557 yard, par 72 Robert Trent Jones Senior design carved at the King’s request from the forest of Zaers back in 1971. The brief was to create a layout ‘fit for a King’ from the 1,000 acres at his disposal and that’s what Trent Jones did, ultimately producing 45 holes across 3 separate courses to cater for golfers of various standards. A classical layout by design, this tree-lined track features numerous dog-legs, extensive bunkering and the customary Trent Jones upturned saucer-style greens. Different varieties of trees with a whole array of exotic fruit flank the fairways and Roman ruins between the 11th and 12th holes add to this unique test.
With the fairway bunkering having become little more than ‘flat pads of sand’ over the years and the course simply lengthened and tightened in order to make it more of a challenge, James Duncan was brought in to make the layout more strategically interesting after the 2017 event. Fairways were widened a little on some holes, bunkers renovated and new ones added, plus using the original Trent Jones drawings all 18 greens were fully updated and in some cases enlarged.
The par 3s tend to prove the most testing aspect to this track with 3 of them measuring over 200 yards, plus there’s the signature 9th hole where players need to clear the pond from 188 yards and find the tiny island green to avoid bogey or worse. With 4 par-5s on the card, a player’s performance on the longer holes is critical to their success with the top two last year shooting -15 between them which equalled their overall total relative to par, however to truly contend a player will also need to maintain their score on the remainder of the course.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Trophee Hassan II that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event. Please note, this week’s track was used for 3 rounds of the 2010 event won by Rhys Davies and again for all 4 rounds from 2016-2018; 2011-2015 tournaments were held on a different course in Agadir: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Alexander Levy, 25/1; 2017: Edoardo Molinari, 150/1; 2016: Jeunghun Wang, 50/1; 2015: Richie Ramsay, 80/1; 2014: Alejandro Canizares, 66/1; 2013: Marcel Siem, 40/1; 2012: Michael Hoey, 80/1; 2011: David Horsey, 80/1; 2010: Rhys Davies, 35/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Rabat is here. The tournament should enjoy fair conditions with temperatures in the high 60s Fahrenheit to start the week then a little warmer over the weekend, with light winds picking up just a little to maybe 10-15 mph each afternoon. The breeziest part of the week looks to be Friday afternoon where the late starters might see 20 mph winds.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. The stats achieved by the top-2 finishers here from the past 3 seasons gives us a little insight into this week’s test:
- 2018: 1st Alex Levy (-8). 297 yards (17th), 44.6% fairways (53rd), 68.1% Greens In Regulation (13th), 69.6% scrambling (2nd), 1.76 putts per GIR (27th)
- 2018: 2nd Alvaro Quiros (-7). 299 yards (15th), 62.5% fairways (9th), 73.6% Greens In Regulation (2nd), 26.3% scrambling (67th), 1.70 putts per GIR (14th)
- 2017: 1st Edoardo Molinari (-9). 291 yards (22nd), 55.4% fairways (36th), 58.3% Greens In Regulation (41st), 76.7% scrambling (1st), 1.69 putts per GIR (14th)
- 2017: 2nd Paul Dunne (-9). 284 yards (40th), 48.2% fairways (53rd), 62.5% Greens In Regulation (20th), 59.3% scrambling (24th), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st)
- 2016: 2nd, Nacho Elvira (-5). 288 yards (17th), 41.1% fairways (39th), 54.2% Greens In Regulation (28th), 57.6% scrambling (17th), 1.59 putts per GIR (2nd)
No official stats were published for eventual winner Jeunghun Wang in 2016.
Looking at the most recent winners on this track, Ian Poulter (Moroccan Open, 2001) is a tidy player from tee-to-green who can be exceptional with the putter when he’s on form. Rhys Davies, whose 25-under winning total in 2010 featured three rounds on this course, was renowned as one of the best putters in the world before losing his form and confidence with the flat stick in recent times. 2016 winner Jeunghun Wang, who putted exceptionally well on his way to victory, ranked 6th for the full season in both the Putts Per GIR and Total Putts categories on the European Tour for 2016. 2017 winner Edoardo Molinari has always been seen as the brother with the far superior short game as he held off Paul Dunne who’s without doubt an exceptional putter and last year’s winner Alex Levy is a good, if somewhat streaky, putter when on his game.
Until last year, none of those winners can be said to be particularly long off the tee, however at over 7,500 yards the course would certainly appear to favour the longer hitters in terms of specification and the fact that Alvaro Quiros finished runner-up to another aggressive player Alex Levy last year suggests that length may be an advantage, particular now that the fairways have been widened a little.
Incoming Form: Incoming form of all winners of this event since 2010 is mixed with the likes of Davies, Canizares, Wang and Levy all having recorded recent top-5 finishes prior to winning. Richie Ramsay, however, had been in poor form prior to victory in 2015 and 2017 winner Edoardo Molinari had only shown glimpses of form in between a lot of missed cuts:
- 2018: Alex Levy: 44/7/26/31/30/37/36/7/4/55/4/36
- 2017: Edoardo Molinari: MC/28/MC/MC/MC/14/7/MC/MC/MC/76/11
- 2016: Jeunghun Wang: 12/14/15/5/6/4/MC/29/25/2/8/MC
- 2015: Richie Ramsay: 9/17/2/WD/21/71/16/MC/MC/WD/MC/MC
- 2014: Alejandro Canizares: 38/24/63/44/18/14/6/23/49/5/54/66
- 2013: Marcel Siem: MC/68/51/11/MC/42/26/39/42/37/33/39
- 2012: Michael Hoey: 1/20/62/23/38/MC/54/33/48/12/MC/33
- 2011: David Horsey: 41/23/48/MC/MC/35/MC/53/13/76/59/51
- 2010: Rhys Davies: 35/3/3/36/17/67/56/41/6/MC/35/3
Event Form. Given that we’ve only got a few year’s worth of history and much of that was at the other course in Agadir, event history is fairly sparse and should be considered accordingly:
- 2018: Alex Levy: 35/37/MC/34/34
- 2017: Edoardo Molinari: 6/64/25/47
- 2016: Jeunghun Wang: Debut
- 2015: Richie Ramsay: MC/7/17/15/11
- 2014: Alejandro Canizares: 43/51/58/32
- 2013: Marcel Siem: MC/MC/52
- 2012: Michael Hoey: MC/19
- 2011: David Horsey: 29
- 2010: Rhys Davies: Debut
A long, classical track that will present the players with a decent challenge makes for an interesting week, however the changes made to the course prior to last year’s renewal may well swing the pendulum a little more towards power over accuracy given what we saw with the aggressive play of Alex Levy and Alvaro Quiros taking centre stage. Heavy scoring on the par-5s whilst securing par elsewhere on the course looks to be the best recipe for success; those raw attributes combined with a hot putter will hopefully see one of my team over the line here this week.
My final selections are as follows: