South African Justin Harding comfortably held on to a two shot lead to win the Magical Kenya 2021 title at the Karen Country Club. Harding shot an aggressive bogey-free five under par 66 round to ward off a spirited challenge from America’s Kurt Kitayama who carded an identical five under par 66 to finish solo in the second position.
The final round started on a slow note for the leading trio as Harding, Kitayama and Veerman played conservatively aware of the danger posed by the chasing pack. By the fifth hole, none of the players in the final three-some had made a birdie.
It only began to happen on the par five sixth hole, the easiest hole on the course, when Harding sunk a birdie despite having missed the green on the second shot. He chipped expertly for his first birdie to go -17. Kitayama found green on two shots, holed a massive 30 footer for eagle to get to -16 one behind Harding. The South African then birdied the 7th hole to restore the two shot lead.
The cagey affair continued until the par four 9th hole when Harding drove the green to register his third eagle of the week and to go -20 after a decent -31 score on the front nine 4 shots clear on the turn.
Kitayama reduced the deficit with a priceless birdie on the 10th hole after holing another jaw—dropping long putt to increase the pressure on Harding.
With pressure mounting, the 35 year old South African failed to take advantage of the par five 11th and 12th holes only managing level par. Sensing an opportunity, Kitayama chipped in for eagle on the 12th hole, his second eagle of the day, to cut the deficit to two.
The pair went on to card identical scores playing par on the next four holes before picking a birdie each on the 17th and a closing par on the 18th for Harding to be crowned the winner.
“This is great. I really like the way I played today. I had great competition out there as Kurt kept bombing them. I feels so nice to go one better after finishing second in 2019,” said an emotional Harding.
It has been smooth sailing for Harding since he finished second at the Magical Kenya Open in 2019. He went on to win the Qatar Masters a feat that earned him a chance to play at The Masters in 2019. The South African did not disappoint at Augusta finishing T12 in the event that was won by Tiger Woods.
For Kitayama finishing second on his Magical Kenya Open debut was satisfactory. It was a great outing for the USA player who only turned pro in 2015coming hot on the heels of last week’s Qatar Masters where he finished T9. Playing aggressively for a round made up of two eagles, two birdies and one bogey, Kitayama took the game to Harding and was well rewarded despite failing to cut the two shots deficit.
“It was really tough trying to catch up. Overall I am happy with the result,” he said.
Scotland’s Syme Connor moved four places up the leaderboard on the final day to finish third after shooting seven under par 64, the day’s best score. He posed the biggest threat to the leaders all day, sinking five birdies on the front nine before two bogeys on the 14th and 16th holes ended his challenge.
American Johannes Veerman had a day to forget after dropping 14 places to finish in the 16th position after an untidy two over par 73 final round. A double bogey on the opening hole followed by two more dropped shots on the 4th and 7th holes got him out of contention earlier than expected. Scott Hend, round three runner up also had a bad outing finishing 14th after a two over par 73 round.
Defending champion Guido Migliozzi put up a spirited defense but only managed to finish T12 after today’s three under par earned him a -13 gross score.
Overall it has been a great tournament for the South Africans who had six players finish in the top 20 closely followed by France with three.
The 19 year old winner’s -19 record score finally came tumbling down today as Harding set the new -21 benchmark.
Action now moves to the Savannah Classic which commences on Tuesday 23rd March 2021 at Karen Country Club. The four day event is fully sponsored by the European Tour. All the Kenyan pros who played in the Magical Kenya Open will feature in the event.
RANK PLAYER TOTAL
1 Harding -21
2 Kitayama -19
3 Connor -17
4 Rodriguez -16
T 5 Langasque -15
T 8 Burmester -14