Manassero and Rock play in Morocco knowing a win leads to Masters

robert rock
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Robert Rock's victory in Abu Dhabi earlier this year vaulted him up the world rankings. Another win this week in Morocco would get him into the Masters.
PA Sport and Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 | 12:36 p.m.

Robert Rock of England and Matteo Manassero of Italy are both playing the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco this week needing a win to qualify for the Masters next month.

Rock and Manassero are the only golfers competing on the King of Morocco’s Royal Course in Agadir who can qualify for the Masters at Augusta National. Rock lies 57th in the world rankings and Manassero 61st, and either must win to be inside the top 50 and gain direct entry into the year’s opening major.

In the two months since Rock beat Tiger Woods and the world's top four in Abu Dhabi, he has slipped from 55th to 57th, but he this one last chance to climb into the top 50. The 34-year-old could make it by coming first or second in Agadir, although a runner-up finish might see him thwarted by others -- Ernie Els included -- competing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida.

“Augusta and qualifying for the Masters is the reason why I played in Spain last week and I’m here this week in Morocco,” Rock said. “The only way I can now really get into the Masters is to win this week, and given how well I played in the Andalucia Open I’m quietly confident of doing enough to get myself inside the top 50.

“I have left it a bit late to try and get myself into the Masters, but I’m sure I will be well inside the top-50 by the time the U.S. Open comes around (in June). But having to achieve that goal this week is going to be a bit hard, but at least it gives me something to focus on.”

Rock dropped one place in the rankings in finishing tied for 17th in last week’s Andalucia Open.

For 19-year-old Italian Manassero, only a victory will do and his second place at the Andalucia Open last Sunday takes him into the event with high hopes as he picked up two places in finishing second to Frenchman Julien Quesne, who is also in Morocco after winning his maiden European Tour title.

“Everything has been great these last two days and I can’t believe the amount of people who have congratulated me and that is very special,” Quesne said.

David Horsey of England will defend his Hassan II Trophy title this week, after beating 2010 champ Rhys Davies of Wales in a playoff last year.

Rock was one off the lead at halfway last year in Morocco but, rather than grabbing his first victory, he dropped back to 19th, eight strokes behind Horsey.

"I maybe let the tournament slip away last time," he told the European Tour website. "I was on top form and maybe pushed it a little too much towards the end to try to win.

"Hopefully I can rectify some of the mistakes I made last time with the experience I have now," he added. "I know now that I can finish a tournament off if I have a good first couple of rounds and put myself in position. It's the type of course I really look forward to playing -- old style, tree-lined with some very interesting par 3s. It's one of the best venues on Tour."