Rhys Davies ready for Hassan II Trophy defence

Rhys Davies
His 2010 win in Morocco propelled Rhys Davies into the world's top 100

Rhys Davies will "relish" playing his first senior tournament as defending champion when the Welsh golfer tees off at the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco.

Davies beat Louis Oosthuizen by two shots and the victory at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salem inspired the 25-year-old's push into the world's top 50 golfers.

Now the world number 94 will aim to regain his trophy and kick-start his stuttering season in North Africa.

"It's the first time I've been able to defend a title as a pro," he said.

"And it is something that I'm very much looking forward to.

"It is a tournament I have fond memories of and hopefully I will be able to do the same thing as I did last year.

"It was one of the first, if not the first event down on my calendar this year as I will relish the challenge of keeping my title."

Davies won the Hassan II trophy the first year it was a recognised European Tour event but previous winners of the tournament include Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh and Payne Stewart

The 2011 showpiece has been moved to the city of Agadir and will be played at both the Golf du Palais Royal and Golf de L'Ocean courses.

Davies will tee-off on the Golf du Palais Royal course alongside 2010 Ryder Cup vice-captain Thomas Bjorn of Denmark at 1303 BST on Thursday as he bids to defend his title.

"It is a bit disappointing that they've moved the tournament as I had great memories of the golf course and hitting lots of good shots," said Davies.

"At the same time, it is the chance to go somewhere different in Morocco and try to conquer a different golf course."

The former Walker Cup player and 2003 British Boys Champion had won twice on the Challenge Tour but his win in Morocco - and claim of the £207,666 first prize - was his first success as a professional.

Davies then went on to take second place at the China Open, Madrid Masters and the Wales Open - where he broke the Celtic Manor course record - as he shot into the top 50.

But Davies has not enjoyed a top 20 place since finishing 14th at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in August.

So, the Bridgend golfer hopes a return to Morocco can inspire a revival in form.

"I often revisit the tournament in my head," said Davies.

"The win gave me a big boost of confidence and hopefully it will have the same effect this year."

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