Our good people on the ground in Agadir take you behind the scenes at the Trophée Hassan II.
Lawrie-loads of water
Agadir is experiencing unusually high temperatures for this time of year, with Thursday's highs hitting 35 degrees and the mercury expected to rise even more on Friday. Most players finished their rounds looking weary and sweaty, but first round leader Peter Lawrie found the heat to be a welcome distraction, saying that he was "so concerned about staying hydrated and drinking enough water that it completely took his mind off his game". Without even thinking about it, he shot an eight under par 64 to equal the course record.
Move out of the way please!
A police escort might usually be associated with a member of the royal family, or the prime minister, or perhaps in a city known to have a high crime rate. But here at the Trophee Hassan II, the minibus shuttles taking players and staff from their hotel to the golf courses have their very own police motorcycle escort to encourage other cars to move out of the way and ensure a smooth journey through the traffic. Now that's service.
Taxi for Dredge...
The ridiculously early times of budget airlines are the bain of any regular traveller's life, but not if you're Bradley Dredge. Faced with a 6.15am Easyjet flight from Gatwick to Agadir, the Welshman shunned any suggestions of staying overnight at a Gatwick hotel, driving there in the middle of the night or taking public transport. Instead, he took a taxi all the way from Cardiff so he could spend the 130 mile-trip fast asleep in the back of a car.
Bunker on the first tee your Highness?
A Slice of the Action has slipped into the King of Morocco’s garden to bring you an authentic, behind-the-scenes look at how the other half live folks. The truly magnificent Golf du Palais Royal, one of our two venues for this week’s tournament, is, quite literally, in the King’s back garden in Agadir. As you can imagine, the security measures in place to gain entry to such an illustrious venue are pretty strict but once inside it is impossible not to be impressed by this beautiful North African oasis. A quick look round the Trent Jones course instantly impresses but arguably our favourite feature on the course is the one that only a King could get away with. Standing by the first tee of the 6844 yard par 72 masterpiece you can’t help but notice a severely out of place bunker by the teeing ground. After much head-scratching and confused chin-stroking, A Slice of the Action decided to make some enquiries as to the need for a bunker by the first tee. “King Hassan II was not very good in the bunker so he always liked to practise some bunker shots before he teed off, so he had a bunker built by the first tee,” revealed one local man. You cannot beat a bit of Royal logic.
One of the great joys of visiting Morocco is the local cuisine, often beautifully summed up by a single, heavy-based clay-pot cooking instrument known as a tagine. For those of you who have never encountered the tagine and the often beautiful ingredients within it, it is essentially a slow cooker that produces the most delicious all in one dinner experience imaginable, with either chicken, lamb, mutton or fish infused by all of those wonderfully north African hints of olives, spices and citrus that has seen the routine question of ‘dinner time?’ replaced by a simple statement of fact: ‘It’s tagine time!’
Tim hoping for a ‘Goodie’ in Morocco!
The Trophée Hassan II’s Pro-Am format for the first two rounds (where two pros will be joined by two amateurs in every match) brings one of Britain’s funniest men to The European Tour – step forward Mr Tim Brooke-Taylor. For those younger readers among you, or indeed those from outside the United Kingdom who did not have the pleasure of watching the classic TV show, the Goodies, you may not be aware that Brooke-Taylor, in the company of Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden, brought a nation to its knees with their weekly comedy sketch show that, following in the footsteps of their close friends at Monty Python, brought surrealism to a nation. Their most famous character, The ‘Funky Gibbon’, struck such a silly chord with the majority of viewers that the accompanying song and dance is still widely imitated in pubs and bars across the land. Let’s hope Brooke-Taylor doesn’t have us laughing on our knees when he tees it up alongside Oliver Wilson on Thursday....