AGADIR, Morocco -- Michael Hoey is ready to return to the 'James Bond setting' of the Golf du Palais Royal this week.
Hoey, form Northern Ireland, is set to defend the Hassan II Trophy title he won last year after carding successive rounds of 7-under-par 65 on the weekend to walk away with top honors.
Other than this annual European Tour event, the exclusive course set in the grounds of the Royal Palace is used only by His Majesty King Mohamed VI and his guests. It's a spectacular setting, made all the more impressive by the backdrop of the stunning palace.
"The golf course only gets only a handful of games every year, so it's very exclusive," Hoey said. "The condition of it is awesome.
"It feels like a James Bond setting. You can see the palace from some of the holes and you try to see what's going on, but the security is always pretty tight," he explained. "The trophy is not a cup, but a gold dagger. It's very different and it's worth a lot of money, so it was a very nice prize."
Hoey started poorly last year, a round of 74 leaving him in danger of not being around for the weekend, but then something clicked.
"I was in danger of missing the cut after the first round – and I actually made a really good up and down for par at the long 18th to shoot 74," Hoey recalled. "So I was under a bit of pressure to make the cut, but I managed to find something in my swing.
"It was that elusive golf we're always searching for. I hit nearly all fairways and greens for the next three days, carding 5 under, 7 under and then 7 under again. I gained momentum, and just tried to keep it going.
"After the first round I had a good chat with my coach, who told me not to get so frustrated," he explained. "So I relaxed a little bit and tried not to think about the results, and from that the result came."
Hoey believes his game is in good shape at present, even if the scores haven't fully started reflecting that yet.
"I've been practicing in Dubai and have started hitting it really well," he added. "It hasn't quite shown in the scores, which is a little frustrating, but I've been hitting a lot of fairways and greens. So it has to click at some stage."