-7 Alvaro Quiros
-6 Alexander Levy, Erik van Rooyen, Mikko Ilonen, Christiaan Bezuidenhout
-5 Jeung-hun Wang, Austin Connelly
Day three report
Alvaro Quiros found a birdie at the last to retain the outright lead heading into the final round of the Hassan Trophy in Morocco.
The big-hitting Spaniard carded a level-par 72 at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam to hold a one-shot lead over Finland’s Mikko Ilonen, France’s Alex Levy and South African pair Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Erik van Rooyen.
The 35-year-old Quiros was 21st in the world rankings after winning his sixth European Tour title in 2011, but fell as low as 703rd before landing his seventh victory at last year’s Rocco Forte Open in Sicily.
That success failed to spark a revival, with Quiros missing the cut in 16 of the 19 events he had played since, before rediscovering his form this week.
“I have to recognise that it felt a little bit like Russian roulette,” Quiros said. “Suddenly great shot, suddenly not that good, but I have to really believe that I fight very nicely, and that’s the most important thing.
“I’m happy to finish in level par today because it was my tricky day, I want to think, so hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.
“The truth is I will need to see how my game is waking up tomorrow to believe in being able to shoot a decent score that allows me to fight for the title or not.
“Obviously the players that we have over there are very good, all of them, too, so we will see.
“That’s why we are here, to be leading tournaments and being able to develop.”
Starting the day with a one-shot advantage, Quiros bogeyed the opening hole but recovered the shot after a lucky bounce on the third.
Quiros and Van Rooyen were two clear at the turn, but the latter found sand at the 10th and bogeyed.
A poor drive on the 13th meant Quiros had to hole from 15 feet just to limit the damage to a single shot at the 13th as he and Van Rooyen were joined at the top of the leaderboard by clubhouse leader Ilonen and Levy.
Quiros restored his advantage with a birdie on the 15th only to give the shot back following a poor drive at the next.
However, he found the green in two at the par-five 18th and duly two-putted for birdie to separate himself from the leading pack.
Quiros is 11/2 with Sky Bet to prevail on Sunday.
Ilonen had seven birdies in a round of 66, Levy signed for a 69, Bezuidenhout posted a 68 and Van Rooyen was round in 71.
Former winner Jeunghun Wang and Canada’s Austin Connelly share sixth on five under, with England’s Andy Sullivan and Wales’ Bradley Dredge the leading British players on three under.
Day two report
One week on from a missed cut in the Open de Espana, big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros holds the halfway lead in the Trophee Hassan II.
Quiros, who won in Sicily last year but has been out of sorts since, labelled his opening 67 one of the best rounds he’s played but had to work harder for a second-round 70, which has him seven-under and one ahead entering the weekend.
While Thursday’s round was largely controlled, the enigmatic Quiros mixed five bogeys with seven birdies on Friday and needed seven holes to so much as register a par, yet he remains the man to catch.
“I would love to say that I have control of my secret but I’m not able to say,” Quiros said during a commentary spell on Sky Sports. “Clearly I’m recovering a little bit of natural feel in my swing and now every single day of golf I need to recover a bit of confidence.
“A lot of times when I miss a shot, it’s not related straight to the swing movement, it’s more related to the fact that I’m not confident that things are going to come out as I want.
“It’s not going to change from one day to another but at least I have a little bit more peace in my mind with respect to the technique.”
Bradley Dredge, who shared the lead after round one, fell to a share of fourth with Canadian youngster Austin Connelly after a disappointing 73, which left the way clear for Australia’s Andrew Dodt to move into second.
Dodt made four birdies and an eagle in a seven-hole stretch from the eighth as a four-under 68 matched the best score of the day and saw him climb 10 places.
Third place belongs to in-play 8/1 chance Erik van Rooyen, who made just one bogey and two birdies in a quiet round of 71, while lurking in a share of sixth are French duo Alex Levy and Benjamin Hebert, plus England’s Paul Waring, contending in the event for the second year in succession.
Aaron Rai, tipped at 50/1 by Ben Coley, sits just one shot further back after a strong finish to his round.
Day one report
One year on from Edoardo Molinari’s victory in the Trophee Hassan, the prospect of another back-from-the-brink winner appears strong thanks to Bradley Dredge and Alvaro Quiros.
Dredge is winless since 2006 on the European Tour and arrived in Morocco searching for form, which he found in a seven-birdie 67 which had him tied for the lead with Quiros, who finished birdie-birdie to also shoot five-under.
Quiros ended a barren stretch of over five years when he won last season’s Rocco Forte Open, but the big-hitting Spaniard failed to build on that success and missed the cut on home soil last week.
The pair head into Friday tied for the lead and one ahead of a bunch which includes Oliver Fisher, who was second in Qatar earlier this spring, and Joakim Lagergren, who was second in the same event in 2017.
“I’m very pleased to be leading the tournament after round one,” Dredge said. “I played nicely all day. I’ve been lacking a bit of consistency and today I really drove it in play every hole and hit a lot of fairways. From there I gave myself a lot of chances.
“The course is in immaculate condition. It’s a matter of getting the ball in play and trying to be careful into the greens and understanding where the pin is and understanding where you can putt from and not putt from.
“I haven’t played a great deal this year [just three events before this week]. I feel as though it’s progressing quite well at the moment, so I’m quite pleased the way it’s trending, as a lot of guys say.”
England’s Lee Slattery and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey are two behind having carded rounds of 69, with Ben Coley’s 100/1 selection Max Kieffer among those on two-under after birdies at three of his final five holes.
Hoey had his wife to thank for helping towards one of his best rounds in some time, after his clubs were lost in transit en route to Rabat.
The 39-year-old wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “Today my Mrs flew from Belfast to London, drove to @TitleistEurope picked up clubs, drove to Heathrow, flew Royal air Maroc to Casablanca, picked up more clubs & taxied it to Rabat just So I could play, that’s commitment! Legend.”
Pre-tournament favourite Paul Dunne ran into trouble on the back-nine in a one-over-par 73 which was matched by former Masters champion Danny Willett, while it was a day to forget for Indian Open winner Matt Wallace after a round of 79.
Veteran duo Anthony Wall and Graeme Storm both withdrew following disappointing opening rounds while two other stalwarts of the European Tour set the early target at the demanding Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.