Michael Hoey (Getty Images)
Northern Irishman Michael Hoey is excited about the prospect of defending his title in the Trophée Hassan II later this month and hopes the memories of his victory 12 months ago can kick-start his season.
The 34 year old put on a weekend masterclass at Golf du Palais Royal in Morocco in 2012, carding two majestic rounds of 65 for a three shot victory over Ireland’s Damien McGrane.
It was Hoey’s fourth European Tour triumph, adding to wins in the Open de Portugal in 2009 and the Madeira Islands Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2011, and he is hoping to make it five when the tournament returns to Agadir from March 28-31.
“The Sunday was a little surreal at the time,” said Hoey. “I’d been trying to stay in the present all during the round, just take it one shot at a time and not think about the leaderboard. I saw Damian McGrane had dropped a shot on the par five 17th and I managed to make birdie there, so I was playing the last with a three shot lead.
“It was especially satisfying given the way I started the tournament, with a two over par 74. I was in danger of missing the cut but the heart to heart with my coach on Thursday night helped and I shot a 67 on Friday.
“That gave me a lot of confidence. I knew I was swinging the club really well and my putting improved a lot too. To shoot two 65s at the weekend was something pretty special.”
The magnificent Golf du Palais Royal lies in the grounds of the Royal Palace of Agadir and is reserved for the sole use of the Moroccan Royal Family, who have long been generous supporters of golf. As a result it is in immaculate condition when The European Tour arrives for the €1.5million tournament.
“Golf du Palais Royal is a pretty exclusive venue and unlike any other course we play on The European Tour,” Hoey added. “It’s always immaculate and kept in pristine condition for the King. Any tournament played inside palace walls is something special.
“It’s great to have the chance to play a course like this, and I know all the players are very grateful to the Moroccan Royal Family for the opportunity.
“Morocco is a place I enjoy visiting because the people are hospitable, the weather’s usually very good and I enjoy the food and culture. I've also played fairly well there over the years and it’s always nice to return to somewhere you enjoy playing.
“I’ve made a decent start to the year and I’ll be looking to build on that in the next few events before heading to Morocco to defend the title.
“Hopefully I can put in another great performance and become the first player to successfully defend the trophy since the tournament became part of The European Tour schedule in 2010.”