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Siem, Coetzee in contention, eye Masters bids

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They may be playing in Morocco, but their focus remains on Augusta.

Marcel Siem and George Coetzee are both eyeing last-minute invites to the Masters, and both players got off to strong starts Thursday at the Trophee Hassan II on the European Tour. Siem is tied for sixth after a 68, while Coetzee is T-3 after a 5-under 67, with the early lead held by France's Adrien Saddier after a 7-under 65.

Siem entered this week at No. 68 in the world ranking, with Coetzee one spot behind him at No. 69. Both players need to win this week to move into the top 50, a standing that would qualify them for the season's first major.

"Augusta is on my mind, obviously," Coetzee told reporters after the round. "I'm here to try to qualify, but I'm just trying to play golf and hopefully on Sunday I will be in contention."

Coetzee won two weeks ago at the Tshwane Open, and he missed the cut at Augusta National in 2013, his lone prior Masters appearance. Siem has never played in the Masters, although he appeared set to make the trip two years ago. The German won this event by three shots in 2013 and seemed poised to crack the top 50 in the world, but when all of the points were computed at week's end he ended up No. 51, 0.03 points away from a spot in the Masters.

Siem and Coetzee are two of six players in the field this week in Morocco who would likely move inside the top 50 with a victory. Ross Fisher's hopes appear dashed after an opening 77, while Andy Sullivan shot a 2-over 74 and Tommy Fleetwood shot a 2-under 70. Alexander Levy, who at No. 54 is the highest-ranked player in this week's field, opened with an even-par 72.

The March 30 rankings represent the final chance for players to earn Masters invites via the world rankings. After this week's tournaments conclude, the lone remaining spot in the field will go to the winner of next week's Shell Houston Open.