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Harding wins Kenya Open

By Christopher Owuor
Monday, March 22nd, 2021
Justin Harding receives his trophy from President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Karen Country Club yesterday. Photo/CALEB OKETCH/IMG
In summary

Faith Nzilani 

South African Justin Harding played a composed round of golf on Sunday to return a score of five-under par 66 and a round total of 21 under par 263 to claim victory at the Magical Kenya Open. 

Harding entered the final day with a two shot lead and went on to card a bogey-free final round on the front nine, picking back-to-back birdies at the par-five sixth and par-four seventh with an eagle on the par-four ninth, picking birdies at the par-four 17th on back nine. He kept the same momentum on the back nine for the two-shot win. 

Railways Club’s Samuel Njoroge, the only Kenyan who made it to the money bracket finished in 77th place after playing for one under par 70 on the final round to level the course. 

This is Harding’s second European Tour victory in his 98th appearance. His first win came at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in 2019.

Outside of the European Tour, this is the 35-year-old’s 11th career win, including seven wins on the Sunshine Tour and two on the Asian Tour. 

The South African finished tied as a runner-up at the 2019 Magical Kenya Open and his win yesterday is the sixth by a South African at this event, and the fourth South African in the last 10 years to win the Open.

This is more wins than any other nation in the last decade.

Harding beat his playing partner for the day, American Kurt Kitayama, who had cut the winner’s lead to one shot with an eagle at the par-five sixth but he kept his cool to regain his two-shot lead in the final hole and win. 

Connor Syme carded 64 to finish at 17 under, a shot clear of Sebastian Garcia and two ahead of another South African Jacques Kruyswijk.

French duo of Batiste Gonnet and Romain Langasque also finished at 15 under par to complete the top five list at the Open. 

“It was hard work. I am happy with the way I played and how I managed the game. I am happy to have shot one better than a couple of years ago.

I executed some shots and managed to make a couple of good par saves,” said an emotional Harding after the win. 

Kenyan golfers will have a day to regroup and fight on the course for better results when the next European Tour event tees off on Tuesday at the same venue, Karen Country Club. 

Out of 13 professional golfers and four Kenyan amateurs that played at the Open, only Njoroge made the cut. 

Mumias’ long hitter who led in the Safari Tour order of merit failed to replicate his performance at the Open.

He carded five over par in the first round and one under par in the second round for a total four over par 146 to miss cut. 

Eric Ooko who was the leading Kenyan pro at two under par 69 in the first round also failed to make cut, so did junior player Taimur Malik who had posted a similar score in the first round. 

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