James Morrison in four-way tie for lead on day one of Trophee Hassan II
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 16/04/17 5:56pm
England's James Morrison is one of four players tied for the lead after a first day of tough scoring at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.
The Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course is renowned for being one of the most difficult venues on the European Tour scoring, and only 34 of the 144 players in the field managed to break par on the opening day.
Morrison fired a three-under 70 to earn a share of the lead with French duo Gregory Havret and Gary Stal, and the trio were later joined by Lucas Bjerregaard.
The young Dane held the outright lead with two holes remaining, but he dropped his fifth stroke of the round at the 17th to return a colourful card which featured six birdies and an eagle at the long 12th.
Morrison, who has been a model of consistency this season with five top-25 finishes in his six starts, birdied two of his first three holes after starting at the 10th, and further birdies at the 15th and 18th sandwiched a mistake at 16.
The two-time European Tour winner briefly hit the front on his own with a birdie at the fifth, but he gave it back at the next and parred in to ensure a share of the clubhouse lead with Stal and Havret, who both handed in similar five-birdie cards.
There was a strong French presence challenging for the lead as Gregory Bourdy, Alexander Levy and Clement Sordet all opened with 71s along with former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari and English rookie Max Orrin, who were the only two players in the entire field to go bogey-free on the day.
English journeymen Robert Rock and Mark Foster are among 22 players on one under, a group which also includes 2014 winner Alejandro Canizares, former BMW PGA champion Matteo Manassero and a trio of Scots in David Drysdale, Scott Jamieson and Duncan Stewart.
David Horsey, who won the second of his four Tour titles in Rabat in 2011, made a steady start and fired a 73 along with David Howell and Eddie Pepperell, but defending champion Jeunghun Wang faces a battle to make the cut after shooting a four-over 77 which included three bogeys and a double-bogey seven at the 18th.