Karen CC. Designer: Remy Martin, 1937; Course Type: Classical; Par: 71; Length: 6,921 yards; Water Hazards: 8; Fairways: Kikuyu; Rough: Kikuyu mix; Greens: Bentgrass, 12’5″ on the stimp.
Course Overview. Karen CC hosted the Kenya Open on the Challenge Tour between 2004-2008 and 2013-2016, plus it also played host to the Karen Masters on the Sunshine Tour in 2018 and 2019, as well as being the venue for Magical Kenya Open when it made its debut on Tour in 2019.
Winning scores have ranged from -10 to -26 over this time, however the course will play as a par-71 this week with the 3rd playing as a long par-4, so superficially the scoring could appear to be a little tougher than some of the 2nd tier events. Guido Migliozzi’s total when triumphing here 2 years ago was -16 on that par-71 format, and Justin Harding reached 21-under on Sunday.
The 6,921 yard layout, which sits 10 miles outside of Nairobi, is classical in style with tree-lined holes and relatively narrow fairways, however the trees aren’t tight to the fairways in general and this is more Italian Open style than Valderrama in terms of playability. The small, undulating greens were re-laid with Bentgrass in 2015, replacing the tired Bermudagrass putting surfaces, and 6 years down the road they will play true and fast with stimp speeds expected to get to over 12 this week.
As well as reducing the par to 71 for this event back in 2019, the routing was also changed since the Challenge Tour events which made for an exciting event. In particular the stretch from holes 6-12 was very scoreable, starting with a 552 yard par-5 and ending with back-to-back par-5s, with four sub-400 yard par-4s wedged in-between.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Kenya Savannah Classic that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well on this course. Stats also include last year’s Karen Masters and last week’s Kenya Open: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Course Winners. Magical Kenya Open 2021, Justin Harding, 33/1; Karen Masters, 2019: Toto Thimba Jr; Magic Kenya Open, 2019: Guido Migliozzi, 200/1; Karen Masters, 2018: Michael Palmer; Kenya Open, 2016: Sebastian Soderberg; 2015: Haydn Porteous; 2014: Jake Roos; 2013: Jordi Garcia-Pinto; 2008: Iain Pyman; 2007: Edoardo Molinari; 2006: Johan Axgren; 2005: Daniel Vancsik; 2004: Marc Cayeux.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the Nairobi region is here.
It looks like a repeat performance of last week with sunny conditions and temperatures reaching the low-80s Fahrenheit each day. The breeze will pick up to around 15mph each afternoon so the best scoring conditions may well be in the morning.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysis the winners for the last 4 events held here at Karen CC gives us a little insight into the requirements for this week’s task:
- 2021 Magical Kenya Open: Justin Harding. 300.6 yards (44th), 44.6% fairways (30th), 70.8% greens in regulation (23rd), 76.2% scrambling (8th), 1.62 putts per GIR (10th).
- 2019 Karen Masters: Toto Thimba Jr. 308.3 Yards (12th), 53.6% fairways (12th), 75.0% greens in regulation (8th), 72.2% scrambling (3rd), 1.54 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2019 Kenya Open: Guido Migliozzi. 308.1 Yards (30th), 42.9% fairways (33rd), 69.5% greens in regulation (5th), 68.2% scrambling (11th), 1.66 putts per GIR (17th).
- 2018 Karen Masters: Michael Palmer. 46.4% fairways (21st), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), 61.5% scrambling (14th), 1.73 putts per GIR (18th).
The first thing you’ll notice from the stats above is that driving accuracy figures are low, however GIR figures are still reasonably high, and this follows for those who also contended for each of the titles as well as the eventual winners.
Hitting fairways is tough here, however the penalty for missing the straight and narrow isn’t huge and players who are comfortable at finding greens from off of the fairways should prosper.
Maximising GIR is key then from wherever drives land, and in scoreable conditions taking advantage of the par 5s is also critical. Michael Palmer (-13) and Toto Thimba (-14) both scored heavily on the par 5s and even Guido Migliozzi (-8) was amongst the best for Par-5 scoring on the week on the revised par 71 setup 2 years ago, whereas Justin Harding shot -10 for the long holes last week.
Incoming Form. A seriously mixed bag in terms of incoming form for all winners here at Karen CC going back to 2004. Guido Migliozzi’s recent form was poor, although he had won on the Alps Tour 8 starts prior, whereas Michael Palmer had missed 8 cuts on the trot before winning here in 2018. Justin Harding’s best finish of 2021 before last week’s victory was 27th and he arrived off the back of a missed cut in Qatar the week before:
- 2021: Justin Harding: 30/38/MC/48/62/27/41/MC
- 2019: Toto Thimba Jr: MC/138/MC/MC/60/22/2/31
- 2019: Guido Migliozzi: 1/MC/MC/56/MC/MC/63/MC
- 2018: Michael Palmer: MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC
- 2016: Sebastian Soderberg: 42/3/15/40/20/40/4/23
- 2015: Haydn Porteous: 26/35/MC/MC/24/MC/MC/25
- 2014: Jake Roos: 36/MC/MC/23/MC/MC/35/15
- 2013: Jordi Garcia-Pinto: 65/WD/31/25/3/MC/MC/62
- 2008: Iain Pyman: 11/7/18/21/MC/MC/14/MC
- 2007: Edoardo Molinari: MC/66/MC/49/8/1/7/MC
- 2006: Johan Axgren: 4/63/MC/13/10/4/1/25
- 2005: Daniel Vancsik: MC/WD/58/MC/40/31/3
- 2004: Marc Cayeux: MC/MC/14/45/5/15/7/8
Course Form. Going all the way back to 2004, course form here at Karen CC has been pretty inconsequential for the eventual winner, with the exception of last week’s winner Justin Harding who had finished 2nd here on his previous attempt in 2019.
- 2021: Justin Harding: 18/2
- 2019: Toto Thimba Jr: 46
- 2019: Guido Migliozzi: Debut
- 2018: Michael Palmer: 19
- 2016: Sebastian Soderberg: MC
- 2015: Haydn Porteous: 48
- 2014: Jake Roos: Debut
- 2013: Jordi Garcia-Pinto: Debut
- 2008: Iain Pyman: MC/49
- 2007: Edoardo Molinari: Debut
- 2006: Johan Axgren: 36
- 2005: Daniel Vancsik: 50
- 2004: Marc Cayeux: Debut
Current and course form give us few clues in truth, so any combination of in/out of form players and course experienced/debutants could feature. Those comfortable attacking pins from off the fairways could be a key factor, so to that end I’m not getting hung up on driving accuracy this week, however finding more than a fair share of greens looks favourable, as does par-5 scoring.
Having had the benefit of last week’s, albeit stunted, coverage to help shape our views for this week, the question really is how much did last week’s result change our assertions from this time a week ago? The narrative can be developed from a number of angles this week: momentum from fast-finishing players, those who impressed statistically without getting into the mix, those how produced the odd low round or two, or even those who missed the cut and therefore have the benefit of a longer break between events.
Whether to keep faith in last week’s selections or to take a completely fresh look will be many a punter’s dilemma this week with the dreaded weekafteritis a distinct possibility for many, however for what it’s worth I’m keeping faith with 2 of last week’s team and replacing the other 2 as follows: