The European Tour makes a welcome return this week. The tour’s stalwarts have had to make the choice between taking a break or working on their game over the last month or so but it’s very much back to business this week with the Trophee Hassan II.
This may not be the highest calibre event of the season but the Trophee Hassan II is an important tournament for many players with a strong run of tournaments during the European summer just around the corner. Joost Luiten is especially keen to make up for lost time with the quality tournaments to come now that he is fit and healthy again. Luiten is the bookies’ favourite in Morocco and has every chance of proving his class for another European Tour win at 16/1 with Betfred.
The Red Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam is not the sort of course you’d want to be playing if your game is even a little bit rusty. That is true even of players who have made it onto the European Tour where it has proven to be one of the toughest challenges in the last three years.
The first thing that stands out about the Red Course is its distance. The par 72 layout measures 7,557 yards from the tips which was enough to make it a challenge for most of its history but things went up a notch in 2017 when James Duncan oversaw changes to make it even tougher. Much of the work that was undertaken was to freshen things up with changes to the greens, bunkering and fairways. The work was carefully considered to ensure the course has retained its original classical feel with tree lined fairways and doglegs whilst the par threes remain the standout holes.
|Red Course, Royal Golf Dar Es Salam||Rabat, Morocco||7,557 Yards||€2,500,000|
Three classy golfers have won the most recent renewals of the Trophee Hassan II to be held at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Alexander Levy blew away a rather unfair reputation for being a flat track bully by winning last year’s tournament whilst Edoardo Molinari made a very welcome return to the winner’s circle 12 months previously. Those two ranked second and first respectively for scrambling which marks that out as a very important stat to consider.
Other players to have done well in recent years have also ranked well either for scrambling or for greens in regulation including Wang Jeung-hun. That suggests this is a very tough course at which it is difficult to keep bogeys off the card. It’s not all about play into and around the greens though. The best putters have always had an advantage at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam and that’s a trend which is set to continue following the recent changes to the greens.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Alexander Levy||Red Course, Royal Golf Dar Es Salam||-8||1 Stroke|
|2017||Edoardo Molinari||Red Course, Royal Golf Dar Es Salam||-9||Playoff|
|2016||Wang Jeung-hun||Red Course, Royal Golf Dar Es Salam||-5||Playoff|
|2015||Richie Ramsay||Golf du Palais Royal||-10||1 Stoke|
|2014||Alejandro Cañizares||Golf du Palais Royal||-19||5 Strokes|
Analysis: Class Can Tell on Abrupt Return to Action
The Trophee Hassan II is a well-regarded European Tour event without being one of the tour’s standout events. However, the field is a little weaker than usual this week. That is likely to be because many players have decided that it’s a little too testing a course for their return to competitive golf. That does throw open the tournament to the very best players in the field though so it may be worth siding with the classiest players over those with strong recent results. Players who have shown an ability to grind out wins when things get tough should also have an edge.
Luiten a Fair Price at the Top of the Market
Six time European Tour winner Joost Luiten is a fairly firm favourite for the Trophee Hassan II. The Dutchman has not that long returned to competition after an injury layoff and it’s the way that he hit the ground running upon his return that’s really exciting punters this week.
Luiten’s last performance actually came on the PGA Tour where he made the cut in the Valero Texas Open. He also finished a creditable 10th in the WGC-Mexico Championship but it’s his consistency on the European Tour that suggests he will have little problem finding his best golf in Morocco.
That leaves the question of whether Luiten’s best is enough to account for this field. In terms of out and out class the answer is a resounding yes and his finishes of third and ninth in his last two trips to Royal Golf Dar Es Salam are also very encouraging. Winning under the pressure of favouritism is never easy but Luiten has the game, experience and quality to do just that at 16/1 with Betfred.
Dubuisson Showing Signs of Real Improvement
When Victor Dubuisson withdrew from the Qatar Masters there was a feeling of “here we go again” amongst European Tour fans. The Frenchman has had a number of aborted attempts to return to the winner’s circle on tour and the worry was that either his head or his body were never going to be quite in the right place. That is just one blot on his copybook recently though with decent finishes in India, Oman and Saudi Arabia showing that his game is returning.
Dubuisson is used to competing in tournaments after a long break so it will not feel strange for him to get going again in Morocco. With wins and strong finishes in some very big events he certainly has the class to win the Trophee Hassan II. The short game magic which he showed in the earlier stages of his career has been lacking this season but Dubuisson’s fourth place finish in this tournament in 2017 shows that he has the required skills to win on his day so he’s worth an each way bet at 30/1 with bet365.
Final Verdict: Joost Luiten to Win
If class is what you’re looking for when it comes to a potential winner of the Trophee Hassan II it is hard to look much past Joost Luiten. The Dutchman is a proven winner on tough golf courses and gets the nod ahead of Victor Dubuisson because of his inner steel at a price of 16/1 that is more than fair.
About the Trophee Hassan II
The Hassan II Golf Trophy (or Trophee Hassan II if you prefer) is played on the European Tour in Rabat, Morocco every year. From its inaugural event in 1971 to 2008, the competition was an unofficial money event before moving to the European Tour in 2010 (after a year off in 2009). It was founded by and named after the former king of Morocco, Hassan II, who was a rather unsavoury character in the eyes of many of his subjects and those from further afield (he died in 1999).
The Trophee Hassan II is played on the Red Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. The Rabat course has hosted the event every year apart from when it briefly moved to Golf du Palais Royal in Agadir.
Several big names have won this Moroccan showdown over the years, including Lee Trevino, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Ernie Els, among others. At the time of writing, Scotsman Richie Ramsay, who won in 2015, was the last British winner of this event.
America’s Dominance Early On
The first Trophee Hassan II was won by Oklahoma man Orville Moody back in 1971. Moody beat fellow American Jerry Heard by two strokes. That was the start of America’s dominance of this competition in the early years, as each of the opening five events were won by players from the United States.
In fact, until Fijian Vijay Singh won in 1991, 13 of the opening 15 tournaments were won by Americans. (Note that no tournament took place between 1986 and 1990.) In 1976, Spaniard Salvador Balbuena became the first non-American to win this Moroccan event. That win was to be one of only two professional events he won during his tragically short career, along with the Portuguese Open in the same year. Sadly, Balbuena died of a heart attack the day before the French Open in 1979 at the age of just 29.
American Winners of Trophee Hassan II – 1971 to 1985
Casper Wins Two of the Opening Five
Billy Casper is one of few players to have won this tournament more than once. Casper enjoyed plenty of success in the early years in Morocco, winning two of the opening five renewals.
Casper, who won 51 PGA Tour tournaments during his stunning career, picked up his first Hassan II Golf Trophy by beating Rod Funseth by five strokes in 1973. Two years later, Casper dominated the 1975 version, finishing 11 strokes ahead of Tommy Aaron and Ron Cerrudo. In 1977, Casper finished runner-up to Lee Trevino.
Townsend Becomes First British Winner
Before Martin Gates won in 1994, there had only been one British winner of this tournament. Way back in 1978, Peter Townsend came out on top in Morocco. The Cambridge-born man, who represented Britain in the Ryder Cup on two occasions, edged past John Schroeder by a single stroke.
In Hassan II Golf Trophy history, only nine British players have won this event. However, Britain had the first three winners when it became a European Tour event in 2010, with Rhys Davies (Wales), David Horsey (England) and Michael Hoey (Northern Ireland) winning in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.
British Winners of Trophee Hassan II – 1971 to 2019
|1978||Peter Townsend (England)|
|1994||Martin Gates (England)|
|1997||Colin Montgomerie (Scotland)|
|2000||Roger Chapman (England)|
|2006||Sam Torrance (Scotland)|
|2010||Rhys Davies (Wales)|
|2011||David Horsey (England)|
|2012||Michael Hoey (Northern Ireland)|
|2015||Richie Ramsay (Scotland)|
Rhys’ Record Win in 2010
In 2010, Rhys Davies became the first man from Wales to win the Hassan II Golf Trophy. In the first official European Tour edition, Davies beat Louis Oosthuizen by two strokes in Rabat. At this moment in time, Davies’s impressive 266 remains a tournament record. At the time of writing that victory remains the only European Tour win of Davies’s career, though he has managed four wins on the Challenge Tour.
Spanish Players Perform Well
Perhaps due to the proximity of their country to Morocco, there have been a high number of Spanish winners of this event over the years, with seven in total. The most recent of those came in 2019 when Jorge Campillo beat a chasing pack of Sean Crocker, Julian Suri and Erik van Rooyen by two strokes.
Prior to that we have seen Spaniards become triumphant in 2014, 2003, 2002, 1998, 1996 and 1976, as mentioned earlier. Santiago Luna is the only player to have won the tournament on three occasions. That was before this tournament was part of the European Tour though and the man from Madrid only managed victory on the European Tour itself on one occasion: the Madeira Island Open in 1995.
Spanish Winners of Trophee Hassan II – 1971 to 2019