Trophee Hassan II betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

Joost Luiten is all smiles with the NBO Oman Open trophy
Joost Luiten is all smiles with the NBO Oman Open trophy

Ben Coley fancies the favourite in the Trophee Hassan II, with Joost Luiten expected to be firmly in the mix come Sunday.

Recommended bets

3pts e.w. Joost Luiten at 16/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Christiaan Bezhuidenhout at 45/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Adri Arnaus at 60/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Romain Langasque at 70/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Louis de Jager at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

The cadence of the European Tour season makes life difficult for everyone as we welcome back the rank-and-file for the Trophee Hassan II.

Come Sunday, it will be four weeks since Stephen Gallacher won the Indian Open and very few here have found somewhere to play competitively in the interim. There will be those who've lost the golden touch, others who have found it, and it's difficult to know who will fill each bracket.

The only certainty is that Royal Golf Dar Es Salam will expose those who are not at their best. This lengthy par 72 has been just about the toughest course on the European Tour over the last three years, its blend of narrow fairways, thick rough and severely undulating greens ensuring that as yet, no winner has reached 10-under-par.

So far, it's been those who are razor-sharp around the greens who've populated leaderboards. That's because even those demonstrating serious control have missed at least one green in four and it's likely that a collection of master scramblers will be right in the mix - even with what looks a kind weather forecast.

Alex Levy's victory over Alvaro Quiros might suggest that as new greens have bedded in and fairways have been ever so slightly widened, things have become more manageable for those who are aggressive, but all-out attack remains unlikely to pay off.

Instead, players who swallow their pride and wait for their chances will surely fare best and in the circumstances I find it impossible to get away from the claims of favourite Joost Luiten.

Now a six-time European Tour winner, there is a theme which runs through the first of them in Indonesia to the latest in Oman, passing by Austria, the Netherlands and Wales on the way.

Luiten is quite simply the best B-list player on the European Tour, and it seems like his career will continue along a familiar path until it ends. Don't expect him to win a major or win the Race To Dubai; do expect him to pick up silverware when among the biggest of fish in a smaller pond.

Here in Morocco, Luiten has finished 14th, 13th and ninth, and his performance last year is worth upgrading as he was playing through the pain barrier with a wrist injury which would ultimately require surgery.

Even so, Luiten managed to lead the field around the greens as he went off in vain pursuit of a Ryder Cup place, a battle he eventually gave up on in the interests of prolonging what's become an excellent career.

Since returning to the course at Valderrama, finishing an impressive 11th, Luiten has barely put a foot wrong on the European Tour, and 10th place in the WGC-Mexico goes down as a career-best performance outside of his comfort zone. Perhaps he'll surprise me and make the transition after all.

Since then, 12th in Oman as defending champion represents the continuation of an excellent 2019 which began with third place in Abu Dhabi, and there were even positives in Texas last time as he chased a last-minute Masters spot before tumbling down the leaderboard on Sunday.

Refreshed and ready to go off in pursuit of a place in the world's top 50 once more, he would be by far and away the most likely winner in this field at any golf course in the world. At this one, which can't be bullied, he rates an excellent bet.

"I love this track," the Dutchman said last year. "It's a very narrow, tree-lined golf course where every aspect of the game gets tested.

"You've got to be driving the ball really well and you've got to be in position for going into the greens all the time and it's just a very demanding golf course and I love coming here."

The fact that Luiten ranks third among this field in par-five performance since making his comeback is further evidence that 16/1 is worth taking - especially if you can get your hands on eight places.

The case for the favourite is strengthened further by a collection of rare winners who sit behind him in the betting.

Erik van Rooyen is edging closer to his breakthrough but looks short enough, a comment which has to apply to Jorge Campillo, and while the case for Andy Sullivan is strong it's four years now since he won anything.

Truth be told Nuneaton's most famous son was the first name on my list having won on kikuyu grass after a break and achieved more than most here, but he's become very frustrating and there are better options at bigger prices.

First, a pair of South Africans who will enjoy conditions and are well-versed in being ready to go after a break, such is the nature of the Sunshine Tour calendar.

Christiaan Bezhuidenhout was quietly impressive as a rookie last season and with three top-10 finishes in his last four starts, a breakthrough at this level is coming.

He's been 34th and 22nd in two starts here, sitting 10th at halfway in both, and in fact played in the final group 12 months ago. In the end, he couldn't finish the job off but he returns with a year's worth of experience behind him and a realistic chance to win.

Bezhuidenhout is 15th in strokes-gained around-the-greens this year, sixth if you count only those who've played at least 20 rounds, and his marriage of solid driving and a neat and tidy short-game looks a perfect blend for this course.

While a grind might appear to better suit those who've been doing this for a decade or more, Paul Dunne almost made his breakthrough here, Jeunghun Wang did, and Bezhuidenhout shares much in common with those two strong wind players.

Form in the Qatar Masters, which Wang went on to win, looks particularly valuable so his second place there stands out and the youngster who has overcome so much to make it this far can secure an emotional win.

Should he fall short, there's a decent chance that more experienced compatriot Louis de Jager is among those in the reckoning and at 66/1 or bigger he's considered good value, too.

De Jager sits directly beneath Bezhuidenhout in the aforementioned short-game stats, and his form coming in isn't far off the same level with finishes of 23rd, 42nd, second and 20th.

His runner-up finish on a tree-lined course in Kenya coincided with a return to Africa, so an upturn can be expected for teeing it up in Morocco and the strength of his play all year suggests he can be a factor.

It's surely possible that he takes further encouragement from the performance of Justin Harding at Augusta, because at a year younger and as the superior amateur, De Jager should feel like he can create a similar career trajectory for himself.

So far at this level he's fallen just short, but there was plenty to like about his effort in Nairobi as there was a stunning final-round at Qualifying School, and this late bloomer should take to the course.

Nino Bertasio and Ashley Chesters both came onto the radar at big prices, but pick of those at upwards of 100/1 has to be Anton Karlsson.

The young Swede has shown the benefits of a largely unsuccessful rookie campaign two years ago, during which he made the weekend here, and recent form figures of 2-9 entitle him to respect.

He's narrowly overlooked, though, with Adri Arnaus and Romain Langasque preferred.

These two are among the brightest young talents on the circuit and the history of Spanish and French players in this event is really encouraging as to their prospects over the next few days.

Mike Lorenzo Vera confirmed once that playing in Morocco, a French-speaking country, comes naturally to the Gallic contingent while it's just a short hop on the ferry from Spain, which helps explain the success of Alejandro Canizares and many more before him.

Arnaus is a huge talent who has quickly climbed the ranks and he only needs forgiving a poor first round in Malaysia to be on any shortlist.

Given that it came just days after he'd played in the final group in Kenya, ultimately coming up just short, I've no problem doing that and instead focusing on some exceptional ball-striking throughout his last three starts.

While this is a different test to that which saw him end a successful Challenge Tour campaign with victory, Arnaus can take advantage of the par-fives and further demonstrate that he's going places fast.

As for Langasque, he led the field in greens hit in Kenya and has already shown a real affinity for playing in Africa in his burgeoning career.

He finished 22nd here last year when without a European Tour card and now returns an improved player who has barely put a foot wrong since winning on the Challenge Tour late last season.

Langasque is the preferred French option given that mentor Victor Dubuisson is half the price and Benjamin Hebert, who has played well here on all three visits, is not a player to set the pulse racing at 66/1.

By contrast, his younger compatriot will leave this level behind in time and I like his game for Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.

Posted at 2010 BST on 22/04/19

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