Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Magical Kenya Open Tips 2022

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The DP World Tour returns this week after an enforced break, with the players first heading to Kenya before venturing to South Africa for a fortnight of co-sanctioned Sunshine Tour events, all at new venues.

First things first though and the Magical Kenya Open sees its third renewal following its promotion to the main Tour in 2019, having previously been an early-season fixture on the Challenge Tour. Guido Migliozzi won the 2019 edition, with Justin Harding taking the title in 2021 after Covid prevented the 2020 renewal from happening; there was also the Kenya Savannah Classic in 2021, played the week after Harding’s victory, however that and the previously mentioned events were all hosted at Karen Country Club and should be considered accordingly.

This year’s event moves from the south-west of Nairobi to the north-east and Muthaiga Golf Club, one of the pioneering courses in Kenya with its roots all the way back to the early 1900s. Like Karen, Muthaiga has hosted the Kenya Open on many occasions with the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Ken Brown on the long list of winners here.

Dean Burmester heads this betting at around 12/1 from the likes of Justin Harding, who won this event last year at Karen Country Club, Adri Arnaus and Adrian Meronk. Thomas Detry rates around the 20/1 mark in what’s a low-grade affair in truth.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Magical Kenya Open, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as The Masters approaches. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, +6,000 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Overview. Situated to the north-east of Nairobi, Muthaiga is a 7,184 yard, par 71 parkland layout that dates back to 1926. Peter Matkovich completed a renovation of the track in 2004 which brought the club up to (relatively) modern standards, and from the pictures and flyovers it looks pretty impressive as it attempts to justify its ‘Home of Golf’ claim.

5 par-3s and 4 par-5s explains the par 71 description and the front 9 plays considerably longer than the back, with over 400 yards the difference between the two halves. Lakes, ponds and trees present problems for those who are flagrant from off the tee, whilst the club claims to have the fastest greens in East Africa which were laid using Bentgrass as part of Matkovich’s work.

Even going back to the 1960s and 70s, the scoring here at Muthaiga hasn’t tended to get out of control, with -10 to -12 generally a competitive score. Aaron Rai’s winning total of -17 in 2017 was among the lowest totals recorded here, and I suspect that whenever it’s firm underfoot it will present a challenge to the professionals.

Nairobi sits at around 5,000 feet above sea level so the altitude here at Muthaiga also helps the ball fly further, much as it did at Karen Country Club.

magical kenya open tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Magical Kenya Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event, on both the Challenge Tour and DP World Tour: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.

Muthaiga GC hosted the Kenya Open on the Challenge Tour from 2009-12 and 2017-18, for these results in isolation use these pages: Course Form | Combined Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Magical Kenya Open Winners: 2021: Justin Harding 33/1; 2019: Guido Migliozzi, 300/1.

Course Winners (Challenge Tour). 2018, Lorenzo Gagli (-11); 2017, Aaron Rai (-17); 2012, Seve Benson (-10); 2011, Michiel Bothma (-14); 2010, Robert Dinwiddie (-12); 2009, Gary Boyd (-13).

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Nairobi is here.

The tournament should enjoy warm (mid-80s Fahrenheit) and dry conditions throughout the 4 days. The breeze picks up a little in the afternoons, although nothing excessive is expected with 10-15mph likely as each day progresses.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. With no stats available from the events held here at Muthaiga on the Challenge Tour, we’re going to have to rely on specification only this week.

A relatively short but challenging set-up should appeal to a certain type of player and 5 par-3s combined with 4 par-5s will put an emphasis on performing on both the shortest and longest holes.

The best clues likely come from recent course winners Gagli and Rai themselves. Rai as we know is a metronomic sort who plies his trade courtesy of his tee-to-green game without being long from off the tee. Gagli, when he’s playing well, is of a similar style: 6th and 1st for Driving Accuracy combined with 1st and 7th for GIR on his 2 events immediately before winning here tells us that he was in a purple patch of long-game form heading into this event 4 years ago on the Challenge Tour.

Incoming Form. The incoming form of the last 6 winners here at Muthaiga is as follows:

  • 2018, Lorenzo Gagli: MC/6/31/26/MC/19/MC/MC/MC/MC/34/29
  • 2017, Aaron Rai: 8/20/10/57/26/58/13/19/34/45/MC/7
  • 2012, Seve Benson: MC/16/62/MC/30/MC/MC/20/MC/MC/9/62
  • 2011, Michiel Bothma: MC/MC/50/MC/MC/MC/MC/65/23/48/MC/15
  • 2010, Robert Dinwiddie: MC/MC/32/MC/MC/70/MC/33/MC/MC/44/5
  • 2009, Gary Boyd: MC/MC/6/24/MC/MC/MC/MC/63/MC/40/23

In relatively recent times. Lorenzo Gagli had produced 2 good rounds from 4 at the Tshwane Open and Qatar Master on his last 2 starts at a higher level; similarly Aaron Rai had finished 7th at the Joburg Open on his previous start, before dropping down a level to win.

For completeness, since the Kenya Open joined the main Tour, the incoming form of the winners – including the Kenya Savannah Classic – is as follows:

  • 2021, Daniel Van Tonder: 1/10/1/1/28/1/76/39/MC/71/2/MC
  • 2021, Justin Harding: MC/11/MC/MC/30/38/MC/48/62/27/41/MC
  • 2019, Guido Migliozzi: MC/MC/MC/MC/1/MC/MC/56/MC/MC/63/MC

Of course these results are from Karen Country Club and should be considered accordingly.

For me, players with a tidy tee-to-green game with some evidence of performing well on comparable tracks is the best starting point. A preference for short courses and/or those with altitude impacting the ball flight is a positive; likewise those who have shown an ability to perform on quicker Bentgrass greens in the past should enjoy this setup.

My selections are as follows:

Johannes Veerman 2pts EW 20/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

At the top of the market, Dean Burmester rates as the bookies’ favourite having won last year’s Tenerife Open as well as the South African Open as it was dropped from the DP World Tour’s schedule at the 11th hour as Omicron took hold.

2nd at the Dimension Data Pro-Am on his last start suggests that his game isn’t far away once again, and if he’s going to succeed this week it will likely be through the aggressive route. With firm and dry conditions expected, I’m veering more towards control than brute power this week, and to that end I’d favour talented American Johannes Veerman of those close to Burmester in the betting.

One career win on the European Tour, as it was at the time, came at last year’s D+D Real Czech Masters, with his 15-under total coming on a course with a little altitude to factor in and slick Bentgrass greens. 12th for SG Approach, 6th for SG Off the Tee and 3rd for SG Tee to Green was the winning formula that week, and should he come close to repeating those statistics this week then he’ll be hard to beat.

8th at the Italian Open, 6th at the Dutch Open, 12th at the Joburg Open an 12th again last time out at the Ras al Khaimah Championship are the highlights since his win and a move away from the exposed early-season events in the Middle East to a more exacting test here in Nairobi should help bring the best out of his game.

17th, 16th and a Missed Cut from his 3 attempts at Karen Country Club are solid if unspectacular, however it’s the middle effort of the 3 that caught my attention. 3rd for SG Approach and 4th for SG Tee to Green that week suggests that he’ll have no problem whatsoever working out the altitude-adjusted yardages this week. RESULT: T26

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Shubhankar Sharma 1pt EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

One eye-catching piece of form from the start of 2022 that shouldn’t be ignored is Shubhankar Sharma’s 2nd place finish in Abu Dhabi behind Thomas Pieters at Rolex Series level.

4th heading into the final day, a closing round of 71 was a shot shy of forcing a play-off, however it’s positive to see the Indian star in contention once again having promised so much back at the end of 2017 and start of 2018 when he captured 2 wins in quick succession as a 21 year-old.

The Joburg Open was the first of those successes, achieved at a very similar elevation to this week’s task and on slick Bentgrass greens, and he followed that up on the tree-lined test at the Saujuna-hosted Maybank Championship which demands a similar level of control to this week’s task.

What’s most surprising is that the 2018 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year didn’t push on from that platform, and it’s only since the end of last summer that he’s really shown signs of rekindling that winning form. 9th at Wentworth in September is a good piece of form for this week, having recorded an identical finish at the Cazoo Classic a month earlier; 3rd at the Spanish Open was also positive and he led into the final day of the PGTI’s Tour Championship before eventually finishing 4th before Christmas.

No wins but certainly positive signs and I can forgive him a lacklustre effort in Dubai (76th) after coming so close in Abu Dhabi, plus his last effort at the Saudi International (51st) was at least book-ended with rounds of 67 and 69.

All aspects of Sharma’s game have shown promise in recent times: 2nd for SG Approach in both Spain and Dubai; 1st for SG Tee to Green at the Spanish Open also; and 1st for SG Putting in Abu Dhabi all point to a player on the cusp of a return to the winner’s circle. RESULT: T13

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Joost Luiten 1pt EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

There are a number of backable players in the mid-range market this week, however few can boast a CV as strong as Joost Luiten and he warrants support given that this layout in Nairobi should play to his strengths.

6 times a winner before the European Tour became the DP World Tour, winning totals of between -12 and -19 for all 6 titles puts this week’s task right in the Dutchman’s wheelhouse as he looks at Muthaiga Golf Club for the first time. The geography shouldn’t be an issue though judging by 41st then 7th at nearby Karen Country Club last year, plus a 10th place finish on the same track way back in 2007 when he was plying his trade on the Challenge Tour circuit.

From tee-to-green, Joost undoubtedly fits the bill here. 33rd and 41st for Driving Accuracy on Tour over the past 2 seasons puts him well inside the top quartile, and 32nd & 11th for GIR over the same timescale rubber-stamps his raw credentials for this week’s task. As ever with Joost it comes down to the putter, however 2nd for SG Putting at Karen Country Club on virtually identical putting surfaces here in Nairobi last year was a truly eye-catching stat and more of the same here a few miles to the north-east would surely put him in the mix.

33rd at Ras al Khaimah on his last start showed some improvement over his opening efforts of 2022, with an opening round of 66 putting him in 3rd place before he slowly went backwards. A short(ish) track at altitude should suit though and the comparisons to the atypical tracks in South African drawn by some of the players from 2017 and 2018 adds further encouragement seeing as Luiten has 5 top-10s and top-20s in the South from 19 career starts, missing just 1 cut in that time. RESULT: MC

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Marcus Kinhult 1pt EW 90/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Winning the Betfred British Masters at Hillside back in 2019 may have come out of the blue for Marcus Kinhult as the Swede had missed 5 of his previous 6 cuts, however if he should win this week then last week’s success on the Nordic Golf League will go down as a more obvious pointer.

Now winning a small event like the Golfstar Winter Series II – having finished 9th the week before in, you’ve guessed it, the Golfstar Winter Series I – isn’t going to have the golfing elite quaking in their boots, however it does show some good progressions and momentum, and the 25 year-old is clearly capable of winning on the bigger stage as he’s already proven.

Although we can’t delve into Kinhult’s stats from the past fortnight, when he’s played his best golf in the past it’s tended to coincide with an up-tick in his long game performance. 8th for Driving Accuracy and 12th for GIR when winning at Hillside is a case in point and he produced similar metrics when recording competitive totals at Le Golf National (11th – 2019) and Wentworth (10th – 2020).

2nd at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 2019 was the closest that Marcus came to adding a second trophy to his cabinet at this level, ultimately he was thwarted in a play-off by Tommy Fleetwood, however that’s good altitude form on a longer but comparable layout in South Africa.

12th here at Muthaiga in 2017 is his only Kenyan form, however after an opening 72 only 2 players beat his final 54-hole tally. With his spirits high after last week’s effort, he could go close here at an attractive price. RESULT: T8

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:55GMT 28.2.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.