The European Tour heads to North Africa this week for the Trophée Hassan II at the Golf du Palais Royal in Agadir, Morocco. Germany’s Marcel Siem is the defending champion.

A strong field has assembled to contest this event. Defending champion Siem is joined on the start sheet by recent European Tour winners Pablo Larrazabal, Ross Fisher and George Coetzee as well as 2008 European Tour Number 1 Robert Karlsson.

The Trophée Hassan II is Morocco’s longest running sports event. It was first contested in 1971 and has been won by nine different Major champions over the years, including Lee Trevino, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington.

Despite its heritage, this is only the fifth season the event has been part of the official European Tour schedule. Rhys Davies of Wales won in 2010, then David Horsey and Michael Hoey, before Marcel Siem triumphed last season. The German led from gun to tape, opening with a 64 and never looking back. He ended the week three clear of David Horsey and Mikko Ilonen.

The Golf du Palais Royal is located within the walls of the Royal Palace of Agadir. Outside of the tournament week it’s only used by King Mohammed VI and his guests.

Marcel Siem is looking forward to returning to the exclusive venue.

“Playing inside the palace walls gives it a special feel to the week, so when you put all that together you can see why the players love the event so much,” he said. “It feels like a real privilege to play the king’s course. Usually when you’re that close to the ocean you would expect the course to be links-like, so it’s got to be one of the very few tree-lined courses in the world which is right on the coastline. Every hole is a different challenge, so I love thinking my way round the course.”

Besides a cheque for €250,000, the winner of this tournament is presented with a jewel-encrusted gold dagger – A prize that’s extremely valuable in its own right.

The weather forecast for the week looks set fair, with temperatures in the mid to high 20s.

Venue: Golf du Palais Royal, Agadir, Morocco
Date: Mar 13-16
Course stats: par 72, 6,951 yards
Purse: €1,500,000 Winner: €250,000
Defending Champion: Marcel Siem (-17)

TV Coverage:

Thursday 13 – Sky Sports 4 from 11am
Friday 14 – Sky Sports 4 from 11am
Saturday 15 – Sky Sports 4 from 1pm
Sunday 16 – Sky Sports 4 from 12.30pm

Player Watch:

David Horsey – The planets are surely aligning for Horsey this week. He won this tournament in 2011 and was tied second last season. He was tied third on his last European Tour start, the Africa Open.

Mikko Ilonen – Joint runner-up in this event last year, he was second in Qatar and tied fifth in Dubai.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – He was tied fourth in Abu Dhabi, then tied third in Qatar. He’s not played on the European Tour since the Dubai Desert Classic so will be looking to hit the circuit with a bang this week.

Key hole: 17th. A par-5 of just 511 yards, this will be reachable for every player in the field. It will provide the opportunity of some significant leaps up the leaderboard late in the day on Sunday.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
Valspar Championship preview