Australian Scott Hend stormed to the summit of the Magical Kenya Open leaderboard to join Kalle Samooja as the overnight co-leaders on a disappointing day that only one Kenyan, Samuel Njoroge, make the cut at Karen Country Club.
Hend moved more than 20 places up the leaderboard after shooting seven under par 64, the day’s lowest score in a round that was headlined by eight birdies and one bogey.
Starting todays round on the back nine in T2 position, Samooja played three consecutive birdies on the 10th, 11th and 12th holes before dropping a shot on the par four 13th then proceeded to birdie the 17th but was unlucky on the 18th where he dropped the day’s second shot. The Finn maneuvered through the front nine brilliantly with an eagle on the par four 17th, two birdies and another dropped shot on the par five sixth hole to move one place up the leaderboard with a -11 gross score.
“I got off to a flying start, opening with three birdies, and then I was struggling a little bit to get quality shots. Playing here is tough because the high altitude makes it tough to find the right yardages and the right club to play. So you just have to be mentally there all the time because any slight error you end up making a bogey,” said Samooja.
The duo is one shot ahead of Scotland’s Syme Connor who dropped one place to be joined by countryman Ramsay Richie and South Africa’s Dean Burmester in T3 position. Burmester matched the day’s best round with an astonishing seven under par 64 to get into to contention after a near-perfect round made up of eight birdies and a bogey.
Day one leader Frenchman Hebert Benjamin had a quiet afternoon dropping 10 places down the leaderboard after a disappointing one over par 72 on a day aggressive golfers were rewarded handsomely.
Other notable movers on the leaderboard were Kurt Kitayama of USA, South African Justin Harding, Scot Calum Hill and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin who are in T6 position, only two shots behind the co-leaders.
Defending champion Guido Migliozzi rekindled hopes of retaining the title after a fine round of six under par 65 hoisted him to T12 position. Another past champion Aaron Rai also fought back into contention with four under par 67 round to move into T24 position.
Samuel Njoroge staged a commendable fight back to make the cut after shooting three under par 68 for his maiden appearance in the weekend rounds. “Njoro” got off to a bright start with a birdie on the first hole but the momentum was briefly checked by two bogeys on the third and eighth holes before a morale boosting birdie on the ninth for a level par finish on the turn. A fired up Njoroge sunk four birdies on the back nine and one bogey for a morale boosting three under par 33 to make it to the money bracket.
“Today I was so relaxed, more than yesterday. It was my second day and I knew the course better than yesterday so I just had to play well. I got a bit unsettled when I lost the ball twice but I recovered very well. I’ve prepared well and I want to play better in the remaining rounds and make my country and sponsors proud,” said Njoroge.
This is the first time since 2010 that only one Kenyan made the cut. Three players Eric Ooko, Anthony Juma, Taimur Malik stood a good chance of making the cut after a good opening round but they found the going tough today. David Wakhu will in particular rue yesterday’s slow start after he narrowly missed the cut despite carding an impressive four under par 67 today.
Safari Tour star Robson Chinhoi inexplicably missed the cut after he totally collapsed in the second round to shoot a measly four over par 75. Starting the day comfortably positioned in the top 20 after a brilliant -4 round yesterday, Chinhoi had a torrid time when he dropped six shots on the back nine after bogeying the 11th and 13th holes followed by two double bogeys on the 15th and 18th. The trend continued on the turn where the Zimbabwean drooped another two shots on the par 4 number three before picking two consolation birdies on the 6th, 7th and 9th holes to finish level par a result that locked him out of the weekend rounds. The same fate befell the Safari Tour foreign pros Nigeria’s Andrew Odoh and Uganda’s Philip Kasozi who shot +7 and +9 respectively.
The 16 pros flying the Safari Tour flag plus six amateurs will get a second bite at the cherry next week when they all line up for the Savannah Classic tournament at the same venue, exclusively sponsored by the European Tour.