Rhys Davies has set his sights on doubling his collection of jewelled daggers, the unique trophy awarded to the champion of the Trophée Hassan II, in Morocco this week.
The Welshman won the stunning gem-encrusted gold dagger two years ago at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat, and nearly claimed another last year at Golf du Palais Royal in Agadir, losing a play-off to Englishman David Horsey after missing a putt for victory on the 72nd hole.
Davies had to have a special letter of dispensation from the Moroccan Royal Family to allow the trophy to be taken on board the aeroplane when he returned home in 2010, but despite the logistical complications of carrying what is essentially a weapon – albeit a rather beautiful one – he wants to win another.
“I am really looking forward to getting back to Morocco for pretty obvious reasons,” said the 26 year old. “I have enjoyed a lot of success there over the last two years and, while I don’t know the exact reasons why that is, I am not going to dwell on it!
“I think the way we are looked after in Morocco is a big factor, and then you have the golf courses. The Palace course is clearly very special, but all the other venues that I have visited in Morocco have been excellent as well.
“There is definitely a unique feel to the tournament: the golf course being part of the Palace grounds, the treatment we receive from our hosts in Morocco is second to none and then you have the trophy for winning the tournament – not many tournaments award a ceremonial dagger.
“It really is an awesome and very special prize. Mine is somewhere at home but I don’t tell too many people where it is exactly because it is so valuable. Hopefully I can get my hands on another one to start a collection.”
The €1.5million tournament, which was founded by the late King Hassan II in 1971 and became part of The European Tour International Schedule in 2010, is now supported by the late King’s sons, King Mohammed VI and Prince Moulay Rachid.
Once again Golf du Palais Royal is the host venue, a Robert Trent Jones Snr-designed course inside the walls of the Royal Palace of Agadir, which attracted high praise from the players last season.
“It is a great golf course and it is always in near perfect condition which just makes it a real pleasure to play,” said Davies. “It is the true definition of ‘hidden gem’, and we are spoilt to be presented with such a great course to play. It is special privilege to play there.
“So I am looking forward to getting out there. I remember arriving at the tournament last year as defending champion and feeling instantly comfortable with that tag. I think you are looked at a little differently by other players and everyone surrounding the tournament.
“I remember really enjoying that extra attention and I think it played a part in me doing so well last year. Hopefully it will be a similar feeling this year.”
Davies has had one top ten finish from four events this season – in the Avantha Masters in India last month – and is pleased with how he has begun the year.
“The game is in alright shape,” he added. “I have been working hard and it feels like it is improving all the time. Finishing tenth in India was encouraging and I have to say that result could have been even better. I hit a lot of good putts over the course of the week in India and they just didn’t drop for me.
“But overall I have been pretty pleased with how the game is coming along because it is quite a stop-start time of year for the players who are not playing in the WGC events and some other tournaments in America.”
The tournament has once again attracted a strong field, with Ryder Cup brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, Major Champions Rich Beem and Michael Campbell, eight-time European Tour Money List winner Colin Montgomerie and Italian teenager Matteo Manassero all in attendance.