Trophee Hassan II betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

Last Updated April 19 2018, 10:13Golf
Pablo Larrazabal can kick on from last week's effort on home soil
Pablo Larrazabal can kick on from last week's effort on home soil

Ben Coley's hugely profitable European Tour season continued last week, and he's found four selections for the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Julien Guerrier at 125/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

2pts e.w. Pablo Larrazabal at 33/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Aaron Rai at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Max Kieffer at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record

While perhaps not quite as stark as the contrast between Augusta and Harbour Town, there's a definite gear shift expected as the European Tour hops from Spain to Morocco for the Trophee Hassan II.

Centro Nacional de Golf didn't look at all pretty on television last week (although bumper crowds and a world-class home winner helped remove that fact from conversation by the time Sunday came round) and it didn't offer all that much of a test, either. Errant tee-shots went largely unpunished and the only real stress for players was that which was brought about unfairly, with bumpy greens sending far too many putts offline for comfort.

In the end, 39 players shot 10-under or better with four-under having been the target required to make the weekend. In the last two editions of the Trophee Hassan, four-under had you bang in the mix at halfway and, in 2016, it'd have been just one shot too many for a place in the play-off. Pars last week saw players overtaken on the leaderboard; a few days later and they're golden.

This should, in theory, shake-up the type of player expected to challenge but it's last week's runner-up, Paul Dunne, who deservedly heads the betting. The Irishman followed 16th on debut here with a play-off defeat to Edoardo Molinari a year ago and, having broken his duck in the British Masters last October and rediscovered his form this spring, he's very much the man to beat at a general 12/1.

Edoardo Molinari with the dagger awarded to this week's winner
Edoardo Molinari with the dagger awarded to this week's winner

Dunne said in Spain that he felt really good with the driver, and that confidence will need to remain if he's to pick up where he left off for Royal Golf Dar Es Salam is a claustrophobic, penal golf course which demands the big stick is called into operation. Look through leaderboards and you'll see a fair mix of talents, but there's without doubt been a disproportionate number of straight-shooters versus a normal week in modern golf.

There have been changes to the layout since last we were here and they appear designed to ease the test somewhat, but it's fair to assume things will still be fairly difficult especially if the forecast rain arrives. On which note, rain has been a feature here in the past yet the bigger hitters haven't been particularly favoured by it. Instead, an ability to keep the ball in play and to grind away proved paramount and I'd expect that to remain the case.

We're only two editions in since the event switched back here and we've two champions who appear very different on paper, yet both Jeunghun Wang and Edoardo Molinari have proven themselves to be best served by tough conditions. Wang followed victory here in five-under with another in Mauritius in six-under, while Molinari's earlier successes on Tour had come in 12- and 10-under. Shootouts serve neither men particularly well, especially the latter.

French fancy

With that in mind, Julien Guerrier was the first player to stand out to me this week and closer inspection suggests that he's worth backing at three-figure prices.

I put up the Frenchman in South Africa earlier this year on the strength of his form in that part of the world, combined with the knowledge that this former winner of the Amateur Championship is really well-suited by tough conditions.

Indeed, there were two Challenge Tour events won in single-digits under-par last season and the first of them went the way of Guerrier, who didn't take part in the second, and while his other success came in 17-under it's worth noting that he was fully six shots clear of the field.

During that successful 2017 campaign, he also teed it up here in Morocco and while a share of 56th doesn't offer obvious positives, Guerrier had missed the cut in all three preceding starts and it may well have been his grinding effort here in north Africa which triggered a breakout campaign.

The 32-year-old also bagged a top-10 finish in the Rocco Forte Open and top-30 in the Nordea Masters, two of the trickier events on the main schedule, so there's plenty of evidence to conclude that he gets better when conditions get tougher.

With that in mind, last week's event in Spain may not have been totally suitable yet he still played superbly in the main, closing with a round of 64 for ninth and not for the first time this season showcasing the excellent short game which should serve him particularly well here.

Guerrier has already tasted contention on the European Tour this season having been third behind Joost Luiten in Oman and, in this similar field, he's worth backing to follow-up last week's fine effort.

Guerrier's nationality can't be a bad thing here either, as Mike Lorenzo-Vera pointed out last year that French-speaking Morocco feels familiar to the Gallic contingent, and we've seen a number of players from France go really well in the event over the years.

With that in mind, Alex Levy is fairly interesting having elevated his game since switching coach almost exactly a year ago. He's one who would definitely be favoured by a downpour and there's no lack of motivation for a player who is capable of making the European Ryder Cup side.

Sebastian Gros looks like he's fulfilling his undoubted potential and this powerhouse could go well if the course changes alter the dynamic, while Romain Wattel returns to Morocco a European Tour winner following last season's KLM Open success and looked like winning this title when behind Richie Ramsay in 2015.

Two from the top

All are considered, but there are two I really like from towards the front of the market so we'll avoid too much of a speculative approach this time, with Pablo Larrazabal and Aaron Rai much preferred.

Larrazabal has an excellent record in Morocco, so it was no surprise that he contended here last year before a disappointing final round saw him slide down the leaderboard to an eventual share of 13th.

Interestingly, that came immediately after Sergio Garcia had won the Masters and Larrazabal went on to contend in each of his next two starts, no doubt inspired by what he'd been watching at Augusta National.

I believe he's likely to be just as charged up by the success, golf course aside, of last week's Open de Espana which attracted massive crowds and, perhaps crucially, produced a world-class home winner in the shape of Jon Rahm.

Jon Rahm and Pablo Larrazabal
Jon Rahm and Pablo Larrazabal ahead of last week's event

Larrazabal himself showed flashes of brilliance, particularly on Friday when under pressure to make the weekend, and all in all his performance looked like an ideal rust-buster after a break which had come at just the wrong time given the form he'd shown prior to it with three top-five finishes in four.

This four-time European Tour winner now heads to a course which will suit him much better and if he can stay in the conversation from the tee, I expect his imagination around these re-contoured and by all accounts tricky greens to help him towards another successful week.

As mentioned, accurate drivers have thrived as Dar Es Salam in the past and that brings the highly promising Rai to the forefront of the conversation.

This youngster was superb throughout the 2017 Challenge Tour campaign, bagging his first win in Africa and two more afterwards, and so much of his success came courtesy of how comfortable he is with the driver.

Rai's breakthrough success came at the devilishly tight Muthaiga in Nairobi and just like both Guerrier and Larrazabal, his excellent performance in the Open de Espana came in spite of the golf course rather than because of it.

With current form figures now showing 9-12, Rai is quickly finding his feet on the European Tour and the difference between that sort of performance and a contending one could be the fact that he's got experience of this course, having finished an admirable 34th one year ago.

Max power

Finally, while Sam Horsfield, Ashun Wu, Renato Paratore and even Chris Wood were on my shortlist, it's Max Kieffer who completes the staking plan at 100/1.

Another who is accurate from the tee and good around the greens, the German looks to have an ideal game for this course despite what happened last year, when after a five-week break following two rounds of 76 in India, he carded 80-77 to miss another cut.

One year on, Kieffer looks in much better shape and 12th place last week was a good effort on a golf course which absolutely isn't made for him. He is much better judged on a Challenge Tour win in seven-under and European Tour play-off defeat in five-under, conditions which brought his ability to make a solid par while others struggle to the fore.

This 27-year-old has been a little frustrating since graduating to the European Tour and has too often finished somewhere between 10th and 30th, but he's got a game very similar to Dunne's and should be in a position to show it in what looks a winnable event.

As for those who nearly made the final cut, Horsfield is a similar price to that which we took in Spain last week and he started very well there. However, I can't be sure this significantly more difficult test will suit and I'd be more interested in Wu, a master scrambler, or Wood, who is as good as any of these when right and should be favoured by conditions.

Posted at 1925 BST on 16/04/18.

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