Golf: Rising star Rai to shine in Morocco this week

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EUROPEAN Tour golf specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) moves onto Morocco this week with his Trophee Hasaan views.

Trophee Hassan II | 13th – 16th April 2017

The hullabaloo of the Masters has come and gone and we’re back to the grind of the European Tour. After five weeks off, the tour returns with the Trophee Hassan II at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Golf Club just outside the capital of Morroco, Rabat.

This is the eighth edition of the tournament but the third at this course. The first back in 2010 was played here before moving away and coming back last year.

Last year’s edition was played at the start of May and the field that turned up wasn’t very good at all. This year it’s the first tournament after the break so the fields fairly decent this time round with those not having played at the Masters teeing up. Last year’s winner Jeunghun Wang and the Canadian Mike Weir are the only ones making the trip from Georgia to Morocco.

Lack of stats poses problems

There aren’t full stats available for last year or any stats at all for 2010 which is a bit of a pain seeing as we’re already on thin ground concerning course knowledge.

Of the stats available those towards the top of the leaderboard last year were high in putting but we’ll need a few more years at least before we put much weight behind any stats.

Kikuyu grass a significant pointer

One thing that is known is that the fairways are Kikuyu grass and that could be quite significant. It’s a rare type of grass mainly found in Africa and Australia and gives those with experience on it a big advantage.

I’ve no idea on the ins and outs of different grasses but the stats speak for themselves. South Africans have a big advantage in their homeland and Kikuyu grass is one of the reasons why.

Back in 2010 Louis Oosthuizen finished 2nd and Thomas Aiken T3rd so there could well be something to go on there. I’m tempted to disregard last year’s renewal due to the strength of the field but Dean Burmester was 14th.

As I already said there isn’t much information on the course available that I can find but from what I have found it reminds me of Dehli GC slightly. The Hero Indian Open was played there up until this year.

I may be completely wrong with that comparison but it might be something to look at this week for future reference.

The rise of Rai

The first pick is someone we’ll be hearing about quite a bit over the next few years in the form of Aaron Rai. The 22 year old from Wolverhampton was promoted onto the Challenge Tour last year and went on the finish 18th on the road to Oman.

The top 16 get a European Tour card for the following season so he came pretty close. This time next year he’ll have that card one way or the other. Either by finishing in that top 16 this year, winning a Euro Tour event or winning three Challenge Tour events this year.

He already has one of those wins in his pocket after winning the season opener in Kenya three weeks ago. The fact he’s played competitively a lot more recently than most in the field is already a big plus as you never know how rusty certain players are going to be after a break.

Having gotten the win is an even bigger bonus and as another plus point is that the fairways in Kenya were Kikuyu grass. In his one start on the European Tour he gave a very good account of himself with a 7th at the Joburg Open, again with that same type of green stuff.

Oddschecker tells me he opened at 200/1 briefly, how I wish I’d seen it. However the 66/1 that he’s at now is still very attractive.

Korhonen to feature

Back in February I tipped up Mikko Korhonen for the World Super 6 in Perth in which he never contended. Since then he’s played just the one tournament, the Tshwane Open and typically he finished in a tie for 2nd.

That was on Kikuyu grass as was the South African Open back in January where he finished T7th. He consistently hits around 75% of GIR and his putter can be very hot when it gets going which are both never bad things.

At those two tournaments mentioned he ranked 6th and 7th in putting average. To go along with that he ranked 1st in the same stat at the Maybank in between. As an added bonus Mikko has some course form too having finished in 22nd last year after a poor six over par final round.

For all that spew about South Africans earlier I’ve not picked one. The German Berndt Ritthammer get the last spot. He was on the Challenge Tour last year and got his full card by finishing 2nd on the Road to Oman and also by winning three times, including the season finale in Oman.

Berndt started off with an 11th at the Alfred Dunhill back in December (Kikuyu) but then had six missed cuts in a row, two in South Africa.

On his last start though at the Tshwane (Kikuyu) he bounced back with a 22nd. That’s a while ago now obviously so the form could be gone now but at 175/1 he’s good value.

Best Bets

Trophee Hassan II – Aaron Rai each-way (66/1 Bet365)

Trophee Hassan II –  Mikko Korhonen each way (50/1 Ladbrokes)

Trophee Hassan II – Berndt Ritthammer each way (175/1 Bet365)

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