Impressive rookie can lead the English challenge
Smith set to make tenth cut in a row
Sky Sports 4, 11.30am Thursday
Event starts 7am
Matches & group betting
Jordan Smith carries the handicap of being a course debutant in the Hassan II Trophy this week, but the youngster should still be favourite for top Englishman honours given how impressive he has been in the first few months of the season.
Smith quickly made his mark on the European Tour by finishing third in the BMW SA Open in the middle of January, ending up one shot outside the playoff between Graeme Storm and Rory McIlroy. The Bath boy has made nine cuts in a row and appears to have upgraded from the Challenge Tour with ease.
Smith won twice on the Challenge Tour last season, the first time in Egypt, so a trip to north Africa holds no fears for him. Having finished in the top 30 in six of his eight starts this year, Smith will expect to be on the leaderboard come Sunday.
The top Englishman market is a 40-runner event, but Smith is the pick of them. The top Scot betting comprises only six players, and Stephen Gallacher can assert his superiority.
Gallacher contended on this course as a maiden in the 2001 Moroccan Open, finishing fourth. He has since gone on to win three European Tour titles and earn a Ryder Cup cap.
Six of his last eight starts have yielded a top-30, so Stevie G can be fancied to outscore Scott Jamieson, Richie Ramsay, David Drysdale, Duncan Stewart and Scott Henry.
J Smith top Englishman
1pt each-way 8-1 Betfair, Power
S Gallacher top Scotsman
1pt 15-8 general
Solid Stone can strike
There could be a strong South African presence on the Hassan II Trophy leaderboard on Sunday afternoon and spreads punters should consider focusing on the players who have made the trip from the bottom of Africa to the top.
Kikuyu grass fairways, like the ones found in South Africa, greet the Hassan competitors in Morocco. The Royal Golf Dar Es Salam will feel like home to the South Africans and some of them, such as Brandon Stone and Dean Burmester, are a class above most of the rabble in attendance for this low-grade gathering.
Sporting Index clearly do not rate the chances of Stone this week, making him joint-third on their finishing-positions list and inviting sellers at 37.
Only Burmester can rival his credentials. Stone has to overcome a lack of course knowledge in his first Hassan start, but the improving youngster is so good that it would be a surprise if he fails to finish inside the top 30.
Stone, first, 31st, seventh and fourth in his four regulation European Tour events this season, is a big fish in a small pond.
Sell B Stone finishing position
at 36 Sporting Index