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Coetzee favourite in Morocco

(Photo: Paul Lakatos / One Asia)
As well as enjoying the resplendent setting of the Golf du Palais Royal, George Coetzee will also have Georgia on his mind this week as he goes in search of a second European Tour victory at the Trophée Hassan II and, with it, a place in the field for the Masters Tournament.

With Coetzee currently 54th in the Official World Golf Ranking and the top 50 assured a starting berth at Augusta National in one month's time, the South African is hoping for a repeat of his debut appearance in Agadir in 2011, when he finished fourth to come of age as a European Tour player.

At the time it was his highest finish and, whilst it has since been eclipsed by his maiden victory in last month's Joburg Open, Coetzee still looks back on that performance as a turning point in his career.

He said: "I last played here three years ago and finished fourth, which was a really big boost to my confidence at that time because I hadn't been on Tour long so I think it was my best result. In many ways it was where it all started for me, because after that I really started to feel like I belonged out here. So this tournament will always feel quite special to me.

"And it's a very special week anyway. It's an unbelievable golf course and very few people are lucky enough to come inside the palace walls, let along play golf here. It's a wonderful tournament, so I'm excited to be here. Hopefully I can have a good week and get into the Masters "“ that would make a special week very special indeed."

A second appearance in the Masters Tournament would be just reward for his efforts this season, having finished in the top ten in four of his last six outings on The European Tour.

His rich vein of form includes that debut victory in Johannesburg, where the burly Pretorian finally got the proverbial monkey off his back after a trio of runner-up finishes over the past three seasons, including at last year's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

Coetzee said: "It's lovely that I've finally got one under my belt. I always felt like I was able to win one, but it just took a bit longer than I'd hoped. I wouldn't say I find the game any easier now, because golf is never, ever easy.

"But I do feel like I'm swinging a bit freer, and I can just play my natural game without having to worry about the results any more. So that bodes well for this week and the rest of the season."

Miko Ilonen and David Horsey finished joint runner-up last year and recent winner Ross Fisher are others expected to do well.

Brett Rumford, Richard Green and Wade Ormsby are the Australians in the field.

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