sport

Siem battling neck injury

Marcel Siem is hoping the old adage of "beware the injured golfer" rings true as he aims to defend his title in the Hassan Trophy in Morocco.

Siem, who enjoyed a wire-to-wire win at Golf du Palais Royal 12 months ago, picked up a neck injury on his flight to Agadir and was advised to pull out of the pre-tournament pro-am on Wednesday.

"It's always great to come back here, even if the situation isn't ideal," the 33-year-old said. "I was looking forward to playing the pro-am but my neck is very sore. I was told by the physios that I had to rest it so unfortunately I had to withdraw.

"Even if it's really painful in the morning I'm still going to try to play, because you don't get the chance to defend your title too many times in your career.

"I flew out here on Tuesday afternoon and slept in a funny position on the flight, and it really stiffened up overnight. But as golfers we often get little niggles like this. It's quite rare to be completely injury-free, so I'm sure I'll be okay."

Siem has made the cut in all four of his European Tour events this season, but admits his game has not been in top shape after a best finish of joint 15th in the 36-man Volvo Golf Champions in January.

"I feel like my golf game is good enough to win tournaments, but I also have to be realistic," added Siem, who won by three shots 12 months ago after opening with a 64. "My putting hasn't been too good so far this season, and to win any tournament you need all four parts of your game to come together.

"But there's always a chance, and hopefully the saying that you should beware the injured golfer comes true this week. I just always feel very comfortable here, so I'm still positive that I can have a good week.

"I've just got back from the States and I really struggle with the grass and the grain on the greens there. Whereas here I can see the breaks on the greens, so hopefully that can show in my putting stats this week.

"I also love the look and the feel of the course. I much prefer this classic style of course to the very modern design of courses you see nowadays. They have a much more artificial feel, but this place is just beautiful. It's so quiet and peaceful and I feel right at home here."

Even without the injury, Siem could have his work cut out to claim a fourth European Tour title, with in-form duo Ross Fisher and George Coetzee playing alongside him for the first two rounds.

Fisher won for the first time in almost four years at the Tshwane Open a fortnight ago, while Joburg Open champion Coetzee is looking for a good performance to move up from 54th in the world rankings. The top 50 on March 31 secure a place in the US Masters at Augusta.

"I last played here three years ago and finished fourth, which was a really big boost to my confidence at that time because I hadn't been on Tour long so I think it was my best result," Coetzee said.

"In many ways it was where it all started for me, because after that I really started to feel like I belonged out here. Hopefully I can have a good week and get into the Masters - that would make a special week very special indeed."