The European Tour heads to Africa this week, swapping the Spanish capital of Madrid for the coastal Moroccan capital of Rabat. The Trophée Hassan II has been played on two different courses since it became a tour event in 2010, but returns to Royal Golf Dar Es Salam for the third year running.
Edoardo Molinari arrives as defending champion, thanks to victory in a play-off over Paul Dunne last season. Putting proved key for the Italian during his third European Tour win, finishing the week with a Putts per Green in Regulation average of 1.69 despite only hitting 58 per cent of greens. Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood are among those joining Molinari in Morocco this week, with the iconic dagger trophy up for grabs.
Our stats guru has weighed up the numbers and put forward the following three men to watch out for in Africa…
Favourite: Paul Dunne
There is unfinished business for Dunne in Morocco. After losing in a one-hole play-off to Molinari 12 months ago, the Irishman will see this week as a prime opportunity to claim his second European Tour win. He performed well at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam on his event debut in 2016, too, finishing in a share of 16th. Positive past experiences on this track point to Dunne being one to watch this week, particularly given the fact he arrives in Morocco on the back of a runner-up finish at the Open de España.
A Friday 65 in Madrid helped Dunne launch a serious challenge for the title, but he ultimately finished two behind winner Jon Rahm. The 25 year old’s stroke average this season is 69.9, with his best round and result coming last week in Spain. Of the players in the field this week, Dunne ranks inside the top ten in Scrambling, Birdie or better and Bogey avoidance since the beginning of last season. If he is coming into form, Dunne could be a serious contender on a course he knows he has performed well at.
He may hail from South Africa, but George Coetzee clearly enjoys playing in the northern part of the continent. Although his three previous appearances in Morocco have all been at a different course, Coetzee has never finished outside the top 11. If he can extend that superb record into this week in Rabat, the 31 year old could continue what’s been an excellent run of recent form.
Coetzee won his fourth European Tour title at the Tshwane Open in March, following up a share of eighth at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Even a month’s break didn’t break the Pretoria-native’s rhythm, following up that victory in South Africa with fourth place at last week’s Open de España. A final day 63 in Madrid was Coetzee’s ninth sub-70 round in his previous 12 and gives him an impressive scoring average of 67.6 in that period. Only Tommy Fleetwood (14) has had more top tens since the start of 2017 than Coetzee (11); the signs are stacking up that this could be yet another good week for the South African.
It’s patently obvious Erik Van Rooyen isn’t content with making up the numbers in his rookie year. After graduating from the Challenge Tour in third place last season, the South African has three top 20s this season, including a runner-up finish at the Joburg Open. Van Rooyen has established himself as one of the longest hitters around, average 316 yards off the tee this season, and could put it to good use on the 7,615 yard course in Morocco.
The 28 year old, who won the 2017 Hainan Open, is also performing well with the irons and is currently second in Greens in Regulation this season, hitting 78.7% in 24 rounds. Van Rooyen sits ninth in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, too, backing up why he’s had such an impressive start to the season. If he can maintain his bright start to life on tour, it’d be little surprise if he became the third South African winner of the current campaign.
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