George Coetzee and Marcel Siem kept their hopes of qualifying for the Masters very much alive on the opening day of the Hassan Trophy at Golf du Palais Royal.

Both men had the daunting task of knowing only a victory in Morocco would be enough to book a trip to Augusta next month for the first major championship of the year.

But they got off to excellent starts on Thursday, with South Africa's Coetzee carding a 67 and Siem a 68 to finish two and three shots respectively behind France's Adrien Saddier.

Saddier, who was one shot off the lead before the final round of the Madeira Islands Open was cancelled due to bad weather on Sunday, made the most of his sponsor's invite to card a flawless 65.

The 22-year-old chipped in on the first for an eagle and repeated the trick on the sixth for the first of his five birdies to finish one shot ahead of England's Daniel Gaunt, who carded seven birdies and a solitary bogey on the 18th.

Coetzee shared third place with Scotland's David Drysdale and England's Chris Wood, with Siem a shot further back after five birdies, an eagle and three bogeys in his round.

Michael Hoey and Kevin Phelan lead the Irish charge, with both sitting on two under after theirs rounds of 70 while the trio of Gareth Maybin, Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie already look to have a fight to make the cut as they all finished on four over. 

Starting from the 10th, Coetzee - who won the Tshwane Open on his home course in Pretoria a fortnight ago - birdied his first two holes and also picked up shots on the 16th and 17th to reach the turn in 32.

Further birdies on the first and seventh took Coetzee to six under, but the 28-year-old ran up a double bogey on the next after his tee shot rolled back off the green and his first chip caught the same slope and came back to his feet.

However, the world number 69 made amends with a birdie from 20 feet on the ninth, just minutes after Siem had holed from an almost identical position.

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

"There is still a lot of work to be done. If it all doesn't work out then I've got a nice five-week holiday. I'm just playing and enjoying my golf. I'm in a good space mentally."

Siem led from start to finish here in 2013 and looked to have done enough to climb into the world's top 50 and secure his Masters debut.

However, after the results of the Houston Open were taken into consideration a few hours later, the 34-year-old discovered he was ranked 51st and had missed out by just 0.03 world ranking points.

"It's a big week for me and four under is a good start," Siem told Sky Sports 4. "I'm really excited about playing the Masters, I've never played it. I finished it off two years ago and still did not get in. It was a little horrible.

"I'm going to keep doing what I did today, try hard not to make any stupid mistakes. I have got the experience and I know the golf course. I will make enough birdies I reckon....just (need to) avoid the mistakes."

Siem and Coetzee were not the only members of the field with Georgia on their minds, with Alexander Levy, Andy Sullivan, Tommy Fleetwood and Ross Fisher all having chances to move into the top 50 before Monday's deadline.

Fleetwood was the best placed of that quartet after an opening 70, with Levy recording a 72 and Sullivan two over following a 74, while Fisher struggled to a 77 which was matched by defending champion Alejandro Canizares.