Ten players currently featuring in the European Tour top 50 Order of Merit will be in the country this week for the Magical Kenya Open and Savannah Classic events. Dubbed the ‘Race to Dubai’ the Order of Merit features 42 events across 23 countries with the winners garnering points towards The DP World Tour Championship in Dubai which is the European Tour season climax.
Judging by the quality of the entries, apart from the attraction offered by the €1,100,000 prize purse, Magical Kenya Open is also a critical tournament towards gaining qualifying points in the race. Only the top 60 players qualify for the Race to Dubai finale.
In fact, five of the top 10 finishers in the just-concluded Commercial Bank Qatar Masters will be trying their luck again this week in Nairobi.
With the big names currently occupying the top positions in the Order of Merit missing, Chris Paisley will be the highest ranked player at Karen. The 35 year old Englishman who turned pro in 2010 is ranked 17th on the European Tour but a distant 193rd position in the World Golf Ranking, OWGR. With only one Tour win to his credit, Paisley is currently in great form and finished in the seventh position in Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, his season best performance. Earlier in the year, Paisley carded -10 to for another T7 finish at the Abu Dhabi HSCBC Championship.
South African George Coetzee is one of the galacticos at Karen ranked 26th on the European Tour. Aged 34 years, Coetzee is one of the most successful players on the Tour with five wins. He has had a relatively quiet start to the 20/21 season finishing 11th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and T10 at the Saudi International tournament in February. He had a bad outing last weekend missing the cut at the Qatari Masters. He is ranked 87th in the OWGR.
Fin Kalle Samooja is ranked third in the field at Karen by virtue of his 29th placing on the Order of Merit. He warmed up for the double-header assignments in Nairobi with a 28th place finish over the weekend in Qatar. Though he is yet to win on the Tour, the 33 year old who turned pro in 2010 is enjoying a steady run this season. He finished T4 at Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January and 28th at the Qatar Masters to earn the 135th position in the OWGR.
At the age of only 28 years, Kurt Kitayama has already won two events on the Tour and sitting pretty in the 30th position in the Tour ranking, ahead of many bigwigs. The United States of America player who only turned pro in 2015 is currently ranked 125th in the world. He had a good outing over the weekend where he finished T9 at Qatar Masters.
Guido Migliozzi arrives at Karen as the 32nd ranked player on the Tour Order of Merit after a superb show at the Qatar Masters where he finished T2, one stroke behind the eventual winner. The reigning Magical Kenya Open champion, Migliozzi boasts of two wins on the Tour and sits in position 170 in the OWGR. Since winning Magical Kenya Open in 2019, the 24 year old has only managed one more title -2019 Belgian Knockout. After finishing T22 at the Italian Open, Migliozzi missed the cut in two consecutive events before notching T44 and T33 finishes at Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Saudi International.
Belgian Pieters Thomas is the highest ranked player in the world among the Magical Kenya cast occupying the 73rd position in the OWGR. The 29 year old who turned pro in 2013 is ranked 34th on the Tour Order of Merit with a respectable four titles in his name. His best performance this season was at the Saudi International tournament in February this year where he finished T10.
Aaron Rai is the third ranked player on the entry list currently in position 77 on the World Golf Ranking, OWGR. The English man dropped three places on the Tour Order of Merit over the weekend after he failed to make the cut at the Qatar Masters. He shot to fame in 2017 when he won Kenya Open- then a European Challenge Tour event- at Muthaiga Golf Club. Buoyed by the success, he went on to win two more events on the Challenge Tour thus earned promotion to the European Tour the following year. He didn’t have to wait long, winning his first European Tour event at the Honma Hong Kong Open followed by the 2020 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. Rai has endured a mixed start in the 2020/21 season notching a morale boosting T18 at WGC in a start-studded event won by Collin Morikawa, a few weeks after finishing T25 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC championship.
Other top performers at the Qatar round which ended yesterday and are also red-hot favourites at Karen include Thomas Detry from Belgium ranked 75th in the world, India’s Bhullar Gaganjeet who finished T2 and South African Darren Fichardt who finished joint second in Qatar.
Romain Langasque, Liuten Joost, Justin Harding and Victor Dubuisson are the other names that will be expected to feature prominently at the top of the leaderboard.
PLAYER TOUR RANK WGR
Chris Paisley 17 193
Coetzee George 26 87
Samooja Kalle 29 135
Kitayama Kurt 30 125
Migliozzi Guido 32 170
Pieters Thomas 34 73
Detry Thomas 35 75
Aaron Rai 40 77
Bhullar Gaganjeet 43 324
Fichardt Darren 43 178