Englishman David Horsey is hoping to kick-start his season in the Trophée Hassan II, where he will defend his title on a course he describes as “a great privilege” to play.
The tournament takes place over the magnificent Golf du Palais Royal, located inside the walls of the Royal Palace of Agadir in Morocco, a layout which, aside from this event, is reserved for the sole use of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and his guests.
Last year the field lavished praise on the flawless condition of the Robert Trent Jones Snr-designed course, particularly Horsey who triumphed in a play-off with Welshman Rhys Davies and South African Jaco Van Zyl after a dramatic final hole of regulation play.
“It’s an awesome course so I’m looking forward to getting back there,” said the 26 year old, whose best finish so far this year is 16th, in the Volvo Golf Champions. “It’s always in mint condition because nobody ever plays it, and to play in a king’s back garden is always something special. It’s a great privilege.
“I haven’t had the best start to the season but my game feels like it’s slowly getting there, so I’ll be looking forward to kick-starting the year in Morocco and I’ll be giving it a good go to successfully defend my title.
“It’s a course I’ve played very well on before, and if I can hole a few putts like last year there’s no reason why I can’t. There will be the added pressure of being defending champion, of course, but I’ve got to try and blank that out and just tackle the golf course as a fresh week.”
Horsey’s win 12 months ago – his second on The European Tour after claiming the BMW International Open in 2010 – followed a climactic finale where he and Davies missed straightforward putts for victory.
“I had a putt from about four feet for bogey on the last to win it and missed, then Rhys had one from about three feet to win it and missed,” he recalled. “And Jaco Van Zyl made par so it went to a three-way play-off. Jaco must have been shocked to be in a play-off.
“I missed the green right on the first extra hole but managed to get up and down. I had a bit of fortune because I hit the flag with my third shot, and if it hadn’t have done so it was probably going off the green. I holed out from about eight feet, then at the second extra hole I hit a great shot to about four feet and made birdie to win it.
“That round was a bit of a rollercoaster because I started birdie-eagle, with a hole-in-one on the second, then I birdied the 17th to take a one shot lead down the last, but made double-bogey at the 18th. I did well to put that out of my mind and win the play-off.”
Last year the Tropheé Hassan II was played in a pro-am format, with two professionals and two amateurs per team for the first two rounds, which were played alternately over Golf du Palais Royal and the neighbouring Golf de L’Océan before the final two rounds were contested over the former.
This year, however, it will be a standard tournament without the amateurs, and Golf du Palais Royal will be the only course used.
“The other course was good too, but to play all four rounds on the Golf du Palais Royal is fantastic,” added Horsey.