Magical Kenya Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE DP World Tour returns after a three-week break, with Justin Harding defending his Magical Kenya Open title.
The South African entered the final day at Karen Country Club with a two shot lead and was never caught as he carded a bogey free 66 to finish at 21 under, two shots clear of playing partner Kurt Kitayama.
American Kitayama briefly cut Harding's advantage to one as he carded two eagles in a 66 of his own, but the leader kept his cool as he earned a sixth worldwide victory in three years.
Scot Connor Syme carded a 64 to finish at 17 under, a shot clear of Spaniard Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez and two ahead of South African Jacques Kruyswijk and French duo Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Romain Langasque.
Harding's maiden European Tour victory in Qatar just over three years ago was his fifth win in ten months, and a tie for second the following week in this event pushed him into the top 50 in the world rankings and earned him a debut in The Masters, where he finished in the top 15.
He had not had a top 10 since September 2020 coming into the tournament but the win moved him into the top 15 on the Race to Dubai. "I went through such a good run in 2019 when it felt like I never actually played badly," he said. "Getting over the line in Qatar was, it sounds a bit strange now, but it was almost like something that was going to happen.
"I've been through a dip in form in terms of mixed results and it was nice to get over the line this time around. Winning isn't everything but I think being in the winner's circle again means a little more to me than I actually thought it did.
"Ultimately, I just hope that I can kick on and it would be nice if I could go on a run like I did in 2018/2019 but who knows? Maybe I do it, maybe I don’t. We’ve just got to keep giving ourselves some chances.
"I'm just happy with the way I managed my game. I made a mess of 11 and 12 and ultimately the way I played 13 through 18 this week, it was a bit of a stressful time. I executed some shots and managed to make a couple of good par saves.”
Kitayama and Harding went head to head in the final group at the 2019 Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open at Anahita, and the 35-year-old was glad to come out on top after seeing Kitayama prevail on that occasion.
"Kurt's an unbelievable competitor," he said. "I got him back for Mauritius.”
This year’s tournament will be played at Muthaiga Golf Club for the first time. DP World Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley said: “We are thrilled to be returning to Nairobi for the Magical Kenya Open in 2022, and to be visiting Muthaiga Golf Club for the first time since the event was elevated to European Tour status in 2019.
“Muthaiga has a long and storied history and has hosted Kenya’s national open on more occasions than any other venue, so it will undoubtedly be a worthy host venue for the stars of the European Tour. We enjoy a strong relationship with promoters Kenya Open Golf Limited and we look forward to working with them once again, while we are grateful to Magical Kenya and the Kenyan Government for their continued support.”
Harding will be back to defend his title but faces some pretty stiff competition, not least from fellow South Africans Dean Burmester, Thriston Lawrence and Daniel Van Tonder. India’s Shubhankar Sharma is also looking to continue his recent good form.
And a number of Europeans are also making the trip to Kenya, including Syme, Matthew Jordan, Guido Migliozzi, Thomas Detry, Adrian Meronk and Adri Arnaus.
Arnaus missed the cut at the Dubai Desert Classic but that was a rare off-week for the Spaniard.
He finished in a tie for eighth at the Portugal Masters, ninth at the DP World Tour Championship, 20th at the Abu Dhabi Championship and tied ninth at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, a tournament in which he had a real chance of victory.
Arnaus is a beautiful ball striker but needs to improve his course management - there are times when his decision-making is seriously questionable but he is a golfer who is on an upward curve and it can’t be long before he finds a way to win.
Scotland’s Scott Jamieson will be sorry that there has been a break in play because he was in wonderful form in the Middle East. He was 12th at Dubai Championship, 10th in Abu Dhabi, 35th in the Dubai Desert Classic, 21st at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and tied ninth at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic. In those five tournaments he broke par 14 times. He had a great chance to win in Abu Dhabi, but a final round of 77 put paid to that. It is, however, to his eternal credit that Jamieson bounced back.
Meronk will be attempting to become the first player from Poland to win on the DP World Tour. The 6ft 5in giant is one of the tallest players on tour and, like so many big men, has a wonderful touch around the greens. He has also shown some sparkling recent form.
Meronk finished in a tie for 32nd place at the DP World Tour Championship, tied fourth at the Dubai Desert Classic and tied for sixth at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic. He has previously struggled with self-belief but is now finally beginning to believe that he belongs in this company.
Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi is a par 71 measuring 7,185 yards. It opened in 1922 and first staged the Kenyan Open in 1967. It underwent a major renovation that began in 2001 and was completed in 2004. The course features many water hazards and fast, tricky greens.
The tournament was won in 2019 by Guido Migliozzi, it wasn’t played in 2020 because of Covid and was won last year by Justin Harding.
Adri Arnaus has been in superb form recently and a first victory surely cannot be far away. Like most Spaniards, he is blessed with a sensational short game, and he also hits the ball a long way. Scott Jamieson is a great each-way bet. He is a golfer who seems to have spent much of his career battling to keep his playing privileges but his early-season form means he has no such worries this year.
Adri Arnaus. Gorgeous golf swing
Scott Jamieson. Has finally found some consistency
Justin Harding. Brilliant short game
Five to Follow:
Adri Arnaus. Getting closer all the time
Scott Jamieson. Enjoying terrific early-year form
Justin Harding. A consistent performer
Dean Burmester. Hits the ball a mile
Guido Migliozzi. Hugely talented young Italian
Five Outsiders to Follow:
Matthew Jordan. Capable of going really low
Shubhankar Sharma. Showing some good signs
Connor Syme. Looking to recapture his best form
Richie Ramsay. Scot needs a big week
Adrian Meronk. Getting ever closer to the winner’s enclosure
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