Defending champ Davies brings old confidence to new venue in Morocco

rhys davies
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Rhys Davies is looking forward to defending a European Tour title for the first time in his career this week.
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PA Sport

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Rhys Davies is hoping his first experience of defending a European Tour title will provide him with more good memories.

The Welshman's two-shot victory over British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen in the Hassan Trophy II last year was the catalyst for a hugely successful rookie season. Davies went on to finish 18th in the Order of Merit and he returns to north Africa for this weekend's tournament ranked 94th in the world.

2011 HASSAN TROPHY II

The Hassan Trophy II is unusual in that it was staged as an exhibition for several years before becoming a full-fledged European Tour event.

The 25-year-old will have to contend with a change of venue, though, with the tournament having been moved from the capital, Rabat, to Agadir. The event has retained its pro-am format for the first two rounds, which will be played on both the Golf du Palais Royal and the Golf de L'Ocean courses, with the final rounds held on the Palais Royal.

"It will be the first time I'll be defending a tournament as a professional so it's something I'm very much looking forward to,” saidf Davies, whose winning total of 25-under 266 was the lowest 72-hole score on the tour in 2010. "It's a different challenge because it's not the same course, but it's obviously a tournament I've got very fond memories of and hopefully I can do the same again.

"There was never any doubt I'd be coming this week,” he added. “It was one of the first tournaments on my schedule and I'm absolutely relishing the challenge to try and keep my title.

"In some ways it's a little bit disappointing they've moved courses, because you have memories of the good shots you hit at various points on the course,” he admitted. “But at the same time we get to go to another part of Morocco, see a different city and have the challenge of conquering another golf course."

Alongside Davies in the field will be Thomas Bjorn, Simon Khan, Darren Clarke, David Howell and Simon Wakefield, who shares the course record for the Golf du Palais Royal.

Looking for his fourth title, meanwhile, will be Spaniard Santiago Luna, following his triumphs in 1998, 2002 and 2003.

"The first victory is the one I remember the most because it was so special,” said the 48-year-old, who returns to the tournament on a sponsor's invitation. "Winning for the first time and being presented with the beautiful trophy -- a gold dagger -- by Moroccan royalty was amazing.

“I felt really good about my game and after that I always came to the tournament knowing I would win it,” he added. "Of course, I didn't win it every year but the times I didn't win I was always near the top. I can't explain it, but when I come to this tournament my game has something extra."