Karen CC. Designer: Remy Martin, 1937; Course Type: Classical; Par: 71; Length: 6,922 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 last year, won by Michael Palmer. Winning scores have ranged from -10 to -18 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.
The 6,922 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 4 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, the routing has also changed since the Challenge Tour events which should make for an exciting event. In particular the stretch from holes 6-12 looks 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. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some players getting a decent birdie streak going during those holes, which could make for an interesting dynamic – especially for in-play betting and trading.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Kenya Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well on this course. Stats also include last year’s Karen Masters: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Form Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Course Winners. 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. The weather looks very consistent for the 4 days with sunny conditions and temperatures reaching the mid-80s Fahrenheit each day. The breeze will pick up to around 15-20mph each afternoon so the best scoring conditions may well be in the morning.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysis the final stats of the top-4 finishers here at the Karen Masters last year gives us an insight into the requirements for this week’s test:
- 1st: Michael Palmer. 46.4% fairways (21st), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), 61.5% scrambling (14th), 1.73 putts per GIR (18th).
- 2nd: Merrick Bremner. 32.1% fairways (51st), 69.4% greens in regulation (20th), 59.1% scrambling (17th), 1.64 putts per GIR (3rd).
- 3rd: Pieter Moolman. 60.7% fairways (5th), 72.2% greens in regulation (12th), 65.0% scrambling (7th), 1.67 putts per GIR (6th).
- 3rd: Tyrone Ryan. 44.6% fairways (24th), 80.6% greens in regulation (2nd), 50% scrambling (24th), 1.79 putts per GIR (34th).
The Karen Masters was the only event where performance stats were captured, however reading between the lines of this and previous winners here, I’d err on the side of power over accuracy, particularly with the narrow fairways meaning that Driving Accuracy stats are very low to start with. That lack of fairways found didn’t overly hinder players when it came to finding greens in last year’s Sunshine Tour event which then put further emphasis on putting – in total, players ranking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th for putting finished inside the top-10 overall.
In terms of incoming form, placing much emphasis on what’s happened in the previous events held here at Karen CC might be a mistake given the change of level this week. Plus, if we take Michael Palmer as an example, 8 missed cuts on the bounce prior to winning here doesn’t help us a great deal. For me, this is an event to tread carefully in first and foremost. Power may well trump accuracy this week, however performance on the greens is likely to be the deciding factor when push comes to shove on Sunday.
My selections are as follows: