Rhys Davies is relishing defending a title for the first time as a professional when he returns to the Trophée Hassan II this week, albeit at a different venue from the one where he launched a hugely successful rookie season on The European Tour.
The Welshman triumphed at Dar Es Salam Golf Club in Rabat, Morocco, 12 months ago, finishing on 25 under par 266 – the lowest 72 hole score on The European Tour in 2010 – to beat Louis Oosthuizen by two shots.
Davies went on the finish 18th in The Race to Dubai, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that the season before he had no category in Europe. He took advantage of a sponsor’s invitation to the SWALEC Wales Challenge on the Challenge Tour by winning the tournament, and then claimed another Challenge Tour title to finish the season fourth in the Rankings and earn a European Tour card.
This year the Tropée Hassan II has been relocated to the magnificent Golf du Palais Royal and Golf de L’Ocean in Agadir, and Davies cannot wait to get his title defence underway.
“It will be the first time I’ll be defending a tournament as a professional so it’s something I’m very much looking forward to,” said the 25 year old. “It’s a different challenge because it’s not the same course, but it’s obviously a tournament I’ve got very fond memories of and hopefully I can do the same again.
“There was never any doubt I’d be coming this week. It was one of the first tournaments on my schedule and I’m absolutely relishing the challenge to try and keep my title.
“In some ways it’s a little bit disappointing they’ve moved courses, because you have memories of the good shots you hit at various points on the course, but at the same time we get to go to another part of Morocco, see a different city and have the challenge of conquering another golf course.”
The 25 year old’s performance in Rabat last year impressed many, in particular the way he handled the pressure of being in the last group on the final day.
Davies recalled: “I won it with a very good final round. It was a very close battle with Louis Oosthuizen throughout the final round and I remember holing a big putt on the 13th and then hitting a great iron shot into the par three 14th and that took me from one shot behind to two shots in front, so it was a big turning point. I executed some really top class shots that day and have good memories of them.
“I think those memories are important and I sometimes revisit them in my head. Golf’s a tough sport and so many things can go wrong, so it’s important to remember the good things. It gave me a really big boost of confidence for the rest of the season and hopefully I can do the same again this week.”
Davies needed no persuading to return to Morocco, adding: “It’s a fantastic country. The food is unique and very popular – the couscous and the meats especially – and the people are great. They are very welcoming and friendly and made us feel at home in their country. It is great to be back here.”