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Faycal Serghini finished joint 14th in the opening event of this year's Mena Tour in Rabat last week. Golf in Dubai
Faycal Serghini finished joint 14th in the opening event of this year's Mena Tour in Rabat last week. Golf in Dubai

Home-grown players will look to tap into local knowledge for second Mena Golf Tour event

"If you can keep the ball in the fairway, you can make lots of birdies," says the Moroccan Faycal Serghini ahead of the Royal Golf D'Anfa Open in Mohammedia.

The layout is confining and confounding, if not outright contorted and constricting. Not to mention, it is unfamiliar to most outsiders.

That said, as play begins today in the second of two Mena Tour events in Morocco, the golfers from the host country likely have their best chance to break through over the entire 2013 season.

Numbers aside - 34 Moroccan players are entered - the nuances of the cramped Royal Golf D'Anfa Open Mohammedia venue outside Casablanca favour a finesse player with a bit of home-grown knowledge.

The course, listed at a claustrophobic 6,245 yards, is narrow, with tight landing areas that minimise the advantage enjoyed by power hitters. Keeping the ball in play is not just advantageous, it is compulsory.

Located a few metres from the Atlantic Ocean, the breezes are a constant element and the terrain has a links-land feel to it, one of the top Moroccan players said.

"When the wind blows, which is likely the case, it becomes even more difficult to score on this course," said Faycal Serghini, who finished joint 14th in last week's Mena opener in nearby Rabat. "If you can keep the ball in the fairway, you can make lots of birdies."

Translation: Advantage, locals.

"I have this feeling that Moroccans will do well here," Serghini said. "They are pretty used to playing on this layout, which is reminiscent of an old-fashioned Scottish seaside course with small dunes and tumbling fairways."

There was no tumbling going on in last week's opener; at least, not for the victor, England's Zane Scotland, who won in wire-to-wire fashion.

Scotland, who lost the Order of Merit on the final day of the 2012 Mena season when Stephen Dodd surged past him, is entered this week, as is Dodd, who has three career wins on the European Tour.

Nine of the top 10 on last week's leaderboard are entered at Mohammedia, including Greg Snow, a tour player from Kenya who finished in a tie for third last week with Dodd and England's Ian Keenan.

Morocco's Younes El Hassani, who finished second last week, five strokes behind Scotland, is also entered.

El Hassani, Scotland and the Englishman Dale Marmion were the only players to shoot par or better over all three rounds in the opener.

Two Moroccan amateurs who finished in the top eight last week, Marjane Ahmed and El Maouass Mustafa, also are in the field. Ahmed, the top Mena amateur two years ago, made 13 birdies last week in Rabat at the Royal Golf Dar es Salaam Open.

"I have no intention of turning pro at the moment," Ahmed said after the final round last week. "There are still grey areas in my game that need improvement. But I am very pleased with the start to the season and will try to build on it."

Scotland, 30, has proven to be quite a closer in openers. He has won the first tournament on the Mena schedule in each of the three years of the tour's existence.

"I tried not to think about it when I teed off in the morning," Scotland said after last week's final round.

"The thinking was to remain relaxed at work. And that did the trick."

The Mohammedia course ranks among the oldest in the region, having first opened as a nine-hole track in 1925. In the past, it has been the host course for a Ladies European Tour event.

 

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