Michael Hoey (Getty Images)
Northern Irishman Michael Hoey has likened the Golf du Palais Royal to a “James Bond setting” ahead of his defence of the Trophée Hassan II this week.
Hoey claimed his fourth European Tour title in swashbuckling style at Golf du Palais Royal 12 months ago, shooting successive rounds of seven under par 65 over the weekend to win by three shots from Ireland’s Damien McGrane.
Other than His Majesty King Mohamed VI and his guests, the course – which is set in the grounds of the Royal Palace of Agadir – is only used by the field for this week’s €1.5million tournament, and the immaculate layout against the backdrop of the stunning palace receives high praise every year.
“The golf course only gets only a handful of games every year, so it’s very exclusive,” said Hoey. “The condition of it is awesome.
“It feels like a James Bond setting. You can see the palace from some of the holes and you try to see what’s going on, but the security is always pretty tight.
“The trophy is not a cup, but a gold dagger. It’s very different and it’s worth a lot of money, so it was a very nice prize.”
Hoey opened with a round of 74 in the international resort of Agadir last year, but something clicked on day two and he took full advantage.
“I was in danger of missing the cut after the first round – and I actually made a really good up and down for par at the long 18th to shoot 74,” the 34 year old recalled. “So I was under a bit of pressure to make the cut, but I managed to find something in my swing. It was that elusive golf we’re always searching for.
“I hit nearly all fairways and greens for the next three days, carding five under, seven under and then seven under again. I gained momentum, and just tried to keep it going.
“After the first round I had a good chat with my coach, who told me not to get so frustrated. So I relaxed a little bit and tried not to think about the results, and from that the result came.”
Of his current form, Hoey added: “I’ve been practising in Dubai and have started hitting it really well. It hasn’t quite shown in the scores, which is a little frustrating, but I’ve been hitting a lot of fairways and greens. So it has to click at some stage.”
This will be the 40th edition of the Trophée Hassan II, which was first played in 1971 and became part of The European Tour International Schedule in 2010. It was founded by His Majesty the late King Hassan II, whose visionary concept laid the foundations for professional golf in Morocco.
His Majesty King Mohamed VI and His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid have continued the Moroccan Royal Family’s strong support of the event in recent years.
Once again, a strong field will tee it up in Agadir, including Italian Edoardo Molinari – who finished runner-up in the Maybank Malaysian Open last week – his brother Francesco, Wales’ Rhys Davies and Englishman David Horsey, the winners in 2010 and 2011 respectively.