Trophee Hassan II Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE European Tour returns for the first time since the Indian Open at the end of March with Alexander Levy defending the Trophy Hassan II. Much has happened since India, not least that incredible four days of high drama at August National, when Tiger Woods rolled back the years to claim The Masters, 14 years after he last won it.
It was a victory that captured people’s imaginations all around the globe, with interest in the sport at an all-time high. And this tournament in Morocco is the first to feel the benefit. When Levy won 12 months ago it was his fifth European Tour title and it raised hopes that he would make the Ryder Cup team and play in front of his countrymen in Paris. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Levy is a mercurial talent who is capable of some incredible bursts of scoring.
The Frenchman entered the final day at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam one shot off the lead but hit the front on the third hole and never looked back, signing for a 70 and finishing the week at eight under. It gave him a one-shot victory over Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, who had a birdie-birdie finish to leapfrog Swedish pair Alexander Björk and Joakim Lagergren, Finn Mikko Ilonen and Italian Andrea Pavan.
"This feels so good," he said. "I'm a little bit tired now because it was really tough today but I did a really good job today. For me, I played an amazing game. I'm so happy to win this trophy. Like what I said from the start of the season, I need to improve my game. I need to work a lot. I worked a lot the last two days, two weeks, and I won this trophy. So that's helped me but step by step, it's a good win but I need to go back to work because we can see we have a lot of good players in Europe. So it will be tough to make it."
The tournament was won in 2011 by David Horsey, in 2012 by Michael Hoey, in 2013 by Marcel Siem in 2014 by Alejandro Canizares, in 2015 by Richie Ramsay, in 2016 by Jeunghun Wang, in 2017 by Edoardo Molinari and last year by Levy.
Molinari’s victory was a hugely emotional one. The Italian is the brother of Francesco, who has enjoyed mind-boggling success in the past 12 months. But older brother Edoardo was the one who was meant to be the more successful. He won the US Amateur Championship and had his brother on the bag when he played in The Masters as an amateur. He turned professional and quickly enjoyed success, qualifying for Europe’s Ryder Cup team for the contest at Celtic Manor in 2010, where they partnered one another as Europe beat the USA under the leadership of Colin Montgomerie amid sopping wet conditions. But then it all started to go wrong and he lost his playing privileges. He refused to give up and fought his way back, culminating in that victory in Morocco two years ago.
Everybody associated with Molinari hoped that it would mark a turning point, but it hasn’t really turned out that way. He is 167th in the Race to Dubai and has made just one cut this year. His performance at the Indian Open was typical. He opened with a 69 but followed it with a horrific 81.
Tom Lewis knows exactly how Molinari feels. The Englishman had a sensational amateur career, playing a part in the successful 2011 Walker Cup and shooting to fame after posting the lowest score by an amateur in Open Championship history in the first round at Royal St. George’s, eventually winning the Silver Medal as the leading amateur. He hails from Welwyn Garden City, the same club as Sir Nick Faldo, and was named after his father’s golfing hero, and the man he shared the tee with in his famous first round at The 2011 Open with Tom Watson. He turned professional and won his maiden European Tour title in only his third professional start in Portugal after a stunning final round 65, becoming the then joint-third quickest Affiliate Member to win on the European Tour. His game then fell off a cliff and he was forced to head back to qualifying school. He won his card back in 2016, lost it again but finally regained it after winning the Portugal Masters for a second time in 2018.
Unlike Molinari, Lewis has kicked on. He finished fifth at the British Masters and was seventh at the Dubai World Championship and he already has two top-10 finishes to his credit this season. It is a perfect example to all golfers who have struggled - don’t give up, keep working hard, then work some more and you just might get the rewards you deserve.
Everywhere you look in the entry list for the Trophee Hassan II there are similar stories. Victor Dubuisson, the enigmatic Frenchman, is a man who has known unbelievable highs - who will ever forget his match against Jason Day in the WGC Matchplay when he produced a series of unlikely recovery shots of which Seve Ballesteros would have been proud? Or his play at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, when he played a part in a demolition of the American team captained by Tom Watson? In the years since then, Dubuisson has often appeared to be lost on the golf course, a man who seems to want to be anywhere else. He remains a hugely talented golfer and his decline is one of golf’s great mysteries.
Chris Wood continues to search for the form he showed when he won the BMW PGA Championship, Joost Luiten is trying to put a wrist injury that ruined his 2018 season to the back of his mind and then there is Stephen Gallacher, another member of that 2014 Ryder Cup team. The Scot struggled during that match at Gleneagles and it seemed to affect his confidence afterwards. But he is a gritty character and, like Lewis and Molinari, refused to walk away and finally gained his reward when he won the Indian Open last month. It will be fascinating to see whether that turns out to be a one-off.
And then there is Scott Jamieson. Another former European Tour winner, the Scot held on to his playing rights last year by the skin of his teeth. He is one of the most frustrating players on tour. Possessed of a huge amount of talent, he often works his way into contention, only to throw in a shocking round and tumble down the leaderboard. But there have already been a couple of encouraging finishes this year and he is 45th in the Race to Dubai. This is a tournament that should suit him, so look out for Jamieson enjoying another big week here.
Joost Luiten. One of the best short games on the planet
Paul Dunne. About time he won again
Scott Jamieson. Hugely underrated
Joost Luiten. Loves to be in the mix
Paul Dunne. Has no weaknesses
Chris Wood. Deserves an injury-free run
Thomas Detry. Poor start to season but it surely can’t continue
Erik Van Rooyen. Beautiful golf swing
Alvaro Quiros. Which Quiros will turn up this week?
Romain Wattel. Prodigious talent
Alex Levy. In the mood, he can win anywhere
Victor Dubuisson. Has shown signs of some decent form
Tom Lewis. A golfer reborn
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