Burmester set to destroy par-fives and become Hassan hero
South African can build on Tshwane triumph
Sky Sports 4, 11.30am Thursday
Event starts 7.50am
Palmer's top tip
Dean Burmester 18-1
The European Tour's lesser lights have had a month off – there have been no standard tournaments since the Indian Open – and for Dean Burmester that was almost certainly a useful period of rest and reflection.
Burmester enhanced his status in his previous event – the Tshwane Open at the start of last month – claiming a maiden European Tour title.
It means he can leave the Sunshine Tour behind and compete for bigger purses on a regular basis. His schedule for the remainder of this year will have been altered, with the Hassan Trophy first on the agenda.
Burmester looks well capable of back-to-back European Tour triumphs. He did not just win the Tshwane – he destroyed the field by three shots with a pair of weekend 65s – the South African slugger emphatically allaying doubts about his Sunday temperament.
Burmester had been threatening that greatness all year. With six Sunshine Tour titles under his belt, it was time to step up a grade, and fourth place in the BMW SA Open in the middle of January was his first near-miss. More excellent golf secured seventh place in a high-class Abu Dhabi Championship the following week.
A closing 71 in the three-round Joburg Open dropped him to 11th place and was a massive disappointment, but he bounced immediately back with Tshwane glory.
This 27-year-old powerhouse clearly has a lot to offer and looks the most likely Hassan champion.
Royal Golf Dar Es Salam has been used for the Hassan only twice before (2010, 2016) and is new to many in the field. Burmester has some positive course experience, having finished 14th last year, and he will be relishing the chance to tackle the five par-fives on a course which has been lengthened by 128 yards.
Few players in world golf hit their ball further than Burmester, who has been combining superb putting with his prodigious length. There is every reason to believe his trip to the north of Africa will prove successful.
Nacho Elvira 60-1
Last year's event must have left Nacho Elvira feeling like the unluckiest man in Morocco.
Jeunghun Wang produced jaw-dropping late short-game heroics to deny the Spaniard a maiden European Tour title. Elvira had the Hassan Trophy in his hands, before Wang turned into a wizard.
Hassan redemption could arrive as soon as possible for Elvira, who has won four times on the Challenge Tour and always appeared good enough to be victorious in the higher grade.
He turned 30 in February, days after contending for the Qatar Masters title, where he finished two shots shy.
Elvira looks to be slowly but surely rounding into a European Tour champion, and missed cuts by a shot in his last two appearances are nothing to be worried about.
Expect much better at the scene of his playoff defeat. The inspiration provided by compatriot Sergio Garcia at Augusta on Sunday can only help.
Renato Paratore 150-1
Burmester, Elvira and Renato Paratore can approach Dar Es Salam with confidence, having performed well there last year.
Paratore is a 20-year-old Italian floating just inside the world's top 300 and bristling with potential.
Paratore finished tenth in the Hassan last year and has posted 11 top-30s on the European Tour since, qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship in November.
Inconsistency is understandable at his tender age and two of his four missed cuts this year have been by a shot.
The talent and promise is obvious, though, and this looks a perfect assignment for the power-packed Roman raider.
Others to note
The South African youngster is a class act and worthy of great respect, but he is making his course debut, so may be slow from the traps.
The Challenge Tour graduate, who won on that circuit in north Africa (Egyptian Challenge), has made a golden start to life in the higher grade. The Englishman is another course debutant.
The defending champ has won two further European Tour titles since. Has been struggling across the Atlantic in recent weeks and only six players scored worse in the Masters last week.
The French youngster has an excellent all-round game and has started his European Tour career solidly. This is a decent chance for a breakthrough.
The Belgian, a Challenge Tour graduate who looks potentially top-class, will have enjoyed the bold effort of his pal Thomas Pieters at Augusta last week.
The Scottish veteran was fourth in the 2001 Moroccan Open at this venue and 19th on his last visit in 2010. Some solid recent golf makes the former Ryder Cup man a threat.
2pts each-way 18-1 Sky Bet
1pt each-way 60-1 bet365
0.5pt each-way 150-1 bet365, Betway
Hassan II Trophy
Course Royal Golf Dar Es Salam (Red Course), Rabat, Morocco
Prize money €2.5m (€416,660 to the winner).
Length 7,615 yards Par 73 Field 138
Course records – 72 holes 266 Rhys Davies (2010). 18 holes 64 Louis Oosthuizen (2010), Danny Willett (2010).
Course winner taking part Jeunghun Wang
Course overview From 2011 to 2015, Golf du Palais in Agadir staged this event, but 2010 and last year saw Royal Golf Dar Es Salam take centre stage.
There are two courses at this venue – the Red Course and the Blue Course – and in 2010 the competitors played a round at each course over the first two days before only the Red Course was used for rounds three and four.
Last year, and again this time, the Red will be used exclusively. The layout has been extended from 7,487 yards since last year and is up from a par 72 to a 73, the eighth hole having been restored to par-five status.
Dar Es Salam hosted the Moroccan Open on four occasions, most recently in 2001, a tournament won by Ian Poulter. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones and opened in 1971.
It is a tree-lined track with water in play on the ninth (green surrounded by water), 12th and 17th. Receptive kikuyu fairways provide wide targets, but the greens are small and undulating.
This is a long course but the five par-fives are fairly straightforward. Three of the four par-threes are more than 200 yards long.
Story of last year Jeunghun Wang landed a maiden European Tour title with some sensational putting in the closing stages, defeating Nacho Elvira in a playoff.
Weather forecast Sunny and calm throughout
Type of player suited to challenge Precise approach-shots to tiny greens are essential at Es Salam, but with yardage added to the track and five par-fives for the big-hitters to attack, the powerhouse who makes most use of this quintet of birdie chances may emerge triumphant.
Key attribute Power