Magical Kenya Champion Justin Harding picked up from where he left last week when he shot a comfortable seven under par 64 today to assume the round one joint leadership at the inaugural Kenya Savanna Classic as Kenya’s David Wakhu fought into contention with an impressive five under par 66 at Karen Country Club.
Harding produced a near flawless round sinking eight birdies and one bogey on the 16th hole, his first dropped shot at Karen after 39 holes, to join early pacesetters Joost Luiten, Clement Sordet, Alejandro Canizares in a four-way tie at the top.
Playing in a highly-fancied threesome comprising of Romain Langasque and Sam Horsfield, Harding shot four birdies on both nines to keep his momentum going in the Race to Dubai series. Horsfield and Langasque are also in contention though they are behind the joint leaders by two and three shots respectively.
Luiten who had a disappointing round at Magical Kenya Open produced a bogey free round to move into the pole position hoping to finally conquer the Karen course after finishing 15th here ten years ago. “I am happy to be in this position going into the week. I am not doing anything different from last week but the course is much softer after some rain and obviously after last week’s round I know it much better. It is a very unique course playing short but you really have to stay out of trouble and make good putts to score well,” said Luiten.
It was a slow day for most of the top 10 Magical Kenya Open finishers as they found themselves trailing the pacesetters by intimidating margins at the close of the first round. Last week’s runner up Kurt Kitayama is positioned a distant T52 after a two under par 69 round alongside Dean Burmester. Other Kenya Open victors Jacques Kruyswijk, Syme Connor and Pep Angles are further back after carding -1 and identical level par.
David Wakhu brought smiles back to Kenyan golf enthusiasts after carding an impressive five under par 66 to finish in the top 20 brackets two shots shy of the joint leaders.
Enjoying momentum from the Magical Kenya Open second round where he shot -4 before crashing out of the tournament, Wakhu was a bit slow off the blocks dropping a shot on the par four 3rd hole but quickly evened matters with a birdie on the par 5 sixth to finish the front nine on level par. The Golf Park pro claimed a birdie on the 10th and set the stage ablaze with a priceless eagle on the par five 11th. He failed to take advantage of the short par five 12th settling for a par but made amends with another birdie on the 13th. Wakhu’s shot of the day came on the par four 17th where he holed a long birdie putt to go six under par and climb into the top 10. Though he did not have a good game off the tee today, finding only two fairways, Wakhu’s short game was on point tidying up things on numerous occasions with excellent putting to save par.
“I was under so much pressure at the start but after saving par despite playing a poor approach shot on the opening hole, I gathered a lot of confidence. I don’t want to put myself under too much pressure so I will just go out there and enjoy the game,” said Wakhu who has failed to make the cut at Kenya Open in more than 10 attempts.
Reminiscent of last week’s performance, the Kenyan contingent failed to keep up with the competition falling more than seven shots behind. Samuel Njoroge, the only local to make cut last week, had a slow start finishing level par to put himself in a precarious position going into tomorrow’s do-or-die round.
“It was a good score for me, because the course is playing tough today. The wind and the greens are rolling very fast so a level par score is a good one for me to start the Savannah Classic. Today I’ve minimized my mistakes, I had three bogeys and three birdies which I am very happy about,” said Njoroge.
Riz Charania and Greg Snow on level par lead compatriots Dismas Indiza, Mohit Mediratta, Justus Madoya, Jay Sandhu, and Isaac Makokha by one shot.
It was another disappointing outing for the Safari Tour foreign pros Robson Chinhoi +4, Andrew Odoh +3, Philip Kasozi +5 and Deo Akope+11 as they all failed to break into the top 100.
DAY ONE LEADERBOARD
J Harding -7
J Luiten -7
C Sordet -7
A Canizares -7
M Keyser -6
M Armitage -6
R McGowan -6
D van Tonder -6
J Caldwell -6
C Sharvin -6
D Fichardt -6
D Wakhu -5