The reigning Trophée Hassan II champion Jeunghun Wang will make the journey from Augusta to Morocco for the eighth edition of this unique event since it became part of the European Tour International Schedule in 2010. Here is everything you need to know about this week’s stop on the European Tour…
Jeunghun Wang announced his arrival on the European Tour stage in dramatic fashion last year as the young Korean holed three remarkable putts on the 18th, first to force a play-off with Spain’s Nacho Elvira, then to force the match to a second extra hole and finally for a thrilling maiden victory.
It was an incredible upset after Elvira looked to have sealed the title twice, but it proved to be a sign of things to come as Wang went on to claim a second successive triumph the following week in Mauritius.
Having entered the week 12 months ago at 133rd in the Official World Golf Ranking, Wang now sits firmly in the top 50 having already sealed a third career European Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in January.
The famed Trophée Hassan II is renowned for its relationship with Moroccan royalty. It is hosted by His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, second in line to the Moroccan throne, and dates all the way back to 1971 with a list of winner that includes Billy Casper, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Price, Payne Stewart, Vijay Singh, Sam Torrance and Lee Trevino.
Since 2010 it has been sanctioned by the European Tour, with Welshman Rhys Davies winning the first fully-sanctioned event.
Marcel Siem became the first continental European to win in 2013, recording a wire-to-wire victory, while Alejandro Cañizares repeated the feat a year later. Last year Wang became the tournament’s first Asian winner, as well as the youngest winner.
The venue alternates between this week’s picturesque venue in Rabat and the spectacular Golf du Palais Royal, which sits inside the grounds of the Royal Palace in Agadir.
Wang returns with his career in a much different place than it was this time last year, and he is joined by one other who has made the journey from Augusta and the Masters Tournament - former Green Jacket winner Mike Weir of Canada.
The Korean is also joined by two fellow winners from the 2017 European Tour season, Alfred Dunhill Championship champion Brandon Stone and his South African compatriot Dean Burmester, winner of the recent Tshwane Open.
All of the last six winners of this event will tee it up in Rabat – Wang, Richie Ramsay (2015), Cañizares (2014), Siem (2013), Michael Hoey (2012) and David Horsey (2011).
Elvira returns hoping to make amends for his near-miss last year while four-time European Tour winner Matteo Manassero will be hoping to continue his strong form having finished in a share of third position in his last appearance at the Hero Indian Open.
Commissioned by King Hassan II and, like Golf du Palais Royal, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Royal Golf Dar Es Salam is built on a 1,000 acre site 15 minutes south of Rabat.
It is regarded as one of the top golf courses in Africa and the Red Course is the toughest and most highly-regarded of the three lay-outs on site, spanning a massive 7,615 yards with a par of 73.
It is a spectacular site, set in a forest of cork, oak and eucalyptus trees and the gently rolling terrain makes up somewhat for its gargantuan length. There is water in play on several holes, including the signature par three ninth, which features a lily pond, complete with flamingos, and a green surrounded by picturesque shrubbery and trees.
DID YOU KNOW
· South Korea’s Jeunghun Wang won the 2016 Trophée Hassan II aged 20 years and 244 days, to become the youngest winner of the event.
· Following on from Li Haotong, who won the 2016 Volvo China Open seven days prior, Wang’s victory marked the first time in European Tour history that two 20 year olds had won consecutive European Tour events.
· Wang became the tenth South Korean player to win in European Tour history and the second youngest Asian player to triumph after Noh Seung-yul won the 2010 Maybank Malaysian Open, aged 18 years and 282 days.
· On his way to victory in 2011, David Horsey made a hole-in-one on the second hole on day four. He became only the fourth player in European Tour history to make an ace in the final round and go on to win. He followed Thongchai Jaidee (2004 Carlsberg Malaysian Open), Miguel Angel Jiménez (2008 BMW PGA Championship) and Alvaro Quiros (2011 Omega Dubai Desert Classic).
· Since the tournament became part of the European Tour International Schedule in 2010, David Horsey has the best record of any player. Having won in 2011, he was tied second in 2013 and tied eighth in 2014. In 2010 he was tied 29th, tied 14th in 2012 and tied 17th in 2015. He is a total of 44 under par for 26 rounds in the event since 2010.
· The Trophée Hasan II was first played in 1971 and is Morocco’s longest running sporting event, first won by 1969 US Open Champion, Orville Moody. The tournament is rich in history with no fewer than nine Major Champions prevailing. They are: Moody (1971), Billy Casper (1973, 75), Lee Trevino (1977), Vijay Singh (1991), Payne Stewart (1992, 93), Nick Price (1995), David Toms (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007) and Ernie Els (2008).
· The event’s only three-time winner, Santiago Luna is playing on invitation, The 54 year old is competing in his 598th European Tour event.