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Morocco Open: McGinley taking next step on long road back to the top

By William Callahan

Paul McGinley reaches a significant milepost on his road to redemption this weekend in the Moroccan resort city of Agadir.

Former Ryder Cup hero McGinley (44) could hardly ask for a more suitable challenge than the Royal Palace and Ocean Courses, which play host to the €1.5m Trophee Hassan II.

Bidding to regain form, confidence and full European Tour playing credentials after last season was undermined by injury, McGinley is playing this season on a career prizemoney exemption.

He showed signs of revival in Malaga last weekend after making the cut for the second time in five outings this season.

Last Saturday's 66, the Dubliner's first bogey-free round in a run of 20 stretching back to last October's Portuguese Masters, harked back to the glory days when he was a contender at Europe's elite events.

Sadly, McGinley fell back into mid-table with a 75 on Sunday but there were enough green shoots in Andalucia to boost his morale heading for Morocco's windswept Atlantic Coast.

The first 36-holes of this weekend's event will be in a pro-am format on both courses, with only the professionals playing on Saturday and Sunday at the 6844-yard Royal Palace, a lovely little gem designed by Robert Trent Jones.

After missing the cut in Sicily and Malaga on his first two outings of 2011 — after nearly four months recovering from a broken wrist — Shane Lowry is hoping for a “real birthday treat” this weekend in Agadir — he turns 24 on Saturday.

Darren Clarke (pictured), Michael Hoey, Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane make up the rest of the Irish contingent in Morocco, while Rebecca Coakley, Martina Gillen and Hazel Kavanagh play in the Ladies European Tour's Lalla Meryem Cup on Agadir's Soleil Golf Course.

Meanwhile, World number two Lee Westwood is hoping this week's Shell Houston Open will provide him with the perfect build-up to the Masters.

The Worksop golfer is back in action for the first time in three weeks.

Westwood was ranked top for almost four months but has been overtaken by Martin Kaymer.

“I'm here to try to win. That would be great and I'd take a lot of confidence going into next week with that,” he said.

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