Hot putters to fare well at Muthaiga
Is Switzerland the place to look for clues?
The Kenya Open has been in existence since 1967 and it was won by some big names in the early days with the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Ian Woosnam both taking the title.
It was a mainstay on the Challenge Tour from 1991 but it switched to become a DP World Tour event for the very first time four years ago, although the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the pandemic.
After two editions at Karen Golf Course in Nairobi, the tournament remained in the capital last year but it moved north to the Muthaiga Golf Club and we're back there again this week.
Muthaiga Golf Club, Nairobi
Par 71 - 7,228
Stroke average in 2022 - 71.08
Positioned to the north of Nairobi and on the edge of the Karura Forest, Muthaiga Golf Club is a tree-lined track with water in play on numerous occasions.
Muthaiga started life as a nine-hole course in 1913, with the second nine being added in 1926.
The front nine is laid out across undulating terrain and the back nine is routed around several man-made lakes.
The course was renovated in 2004-05 by Peter Matkovich, when the greens were all changed to bent grass and the par three 13th over water is considered the signature hole.
In addition to hosting this event 12 months ago, Muthaiga hosted the inaugural Kenya Open in 1967 and it's staged the event 40 times in total. The last occasion being in 2018 when Italy's Lorenzo Gagli beat Jens Fahbring in a playoff after both men had reached 11-under-par.
Although the course measures almost 7,200 yards, it doesn't play that long as Nairobi is around 1800 metres above sea level and the ball travels further in the thinner air.
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First Three Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2022 - Ashun Wu -16 80.079/1
2021 - Justin Harding -21 60.059/1
2020 - Event Cancelled
2019 - Guido Migliozzi -16 150.0149/1
What Will it Take to Win Magical Kenya Open?
We don't have any stats to look back on from the renewals staged here on the Challenge Tour but we do have last year's edition to look back on so here's the top-five with traditional and Strokes Gained stats.
Ashun Wu -16 DA 28 DD 63 GIR 23 SC 14 PA 1
Aaron Cockerill -12 DA 6 DD 29 GIR 49 SC 40 PA 3
Thriston Lawrence -12 DA 67 DD 53 GIR 2 SC 68 PA 24
Hurly Long -12 DA 71 DD 56 GIR 20 SC 28 PA 9
David Horsey -11 DA 23 DD 55 GIR 9 SC 7 PA 28
DA = Driving Accuracy
DD = Driving Distance
GIR = Greens In Regulation
SC = Scrambling
PA = Putting Average
Ashun Wu -16 Tee 62 App 4 ATG 28 T2G 4 P 4
Aaron Cockerill -12 Tee 22 App 31 ATG 72 T2G 79 P 1
Thriston Lawrence -12 Tee 5 App 21 ATG 53 T2G 6 P 22
Hurly Long -12 Tee 14 App 45 ATG 7 T2G 9 P 16
David Horsey -11 Tee 33 App 9 ATG 47 T2G 14 P 23
Tee = Strokes Gained off the Tee
App = Strokes Gained on Approach
ATG = Strokes Gained Around the Green
T2G = Strokes Gained Tee to Green
P = Strokes Gained Putting
Unfortunately, nothing really stands statistically and putting appeared to be the key to victory for Wu.
Is There an Angle In?
There were emotional scenes here in 2017 when Aaron Rai won his first pro title with his Kenyan-born mother in attendance and on the strength of that victory, few shrewdies were onboard for his first DP World Tour win a year later at a similar venue.
Rai followed victory here with a win in the Hong Kong Open at tree-lined Fanling and form at any tree-lined tracks should hold up nicely here.
As many as three Muthaiga winners - Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Trevor Immelman - have won the US Masters at Augusta and back in the day, form at Wentworth correlated nicely.
Seve and Woosie both won multiple PGA Championships at Surrey's finest, and Immelman lost a playoff there in 2003. Guy Wolstenholme won the inaugural staging here but the 1974 Wentworth winner, Maurice Bembridge, won the next two editions and there are numerous examples of players placing at both venues.
The Fanling form is a bit old now and there won't be too many in this field that have played with regularity at Wentworth so other courses to consider are Valderrama and Crans-sur-Sierre, with the latter named proving a good link 12 months ago.
Although he's missed his last two cuts there, Wu finished ninth and sixth in his first two appearances in Switzerland at the European Masters at Crans and Thriston Lawrence, who finished tied second behind Wu last year here, beat Matt Wallace in extra time to with the European Masters back in August.
Like Muthaiga, Crans is tree-lined and positioned at a high altitude so form there is clearly worth plenty.
Jens Fahrbring lost a playoff here in 2018, having trailed by ten at halfway, and the 1997 and 2001 Challenge Tour winners, Jorge Berendt and Ashley Roestaff, like Wu 12 months ago, sat five adrift after 36 holes but the other 11 course winners since 1996 have all been inside the top-five and within four stokes at the halfway stage.
No first-round leaders have gone on to win since 1996 but six 36-hole leaders have converted.
Ewen Ferguson led by four strokes with a round to go 12 months ago (Wu sat tied second) but he eventually finished tied eighth and the last four course winners were all trailing with a round to go.
Bizarrely, 36-hole leaders have a better record than 54-hole leaders. Since 1996, 17 players have led or co-led at halfway and six went on to win, whereas only five of the 18 players to lead or co-lead after three rounds have been victorious.
Antoine Rozner heads the market and that's not at all surprising.
The Frenchman has ticked along quite nicely since winning the Mauritius Open just before Christmas and he's finished inside the top-six in each of his last two start in Singapore and Thailand but he has only ordinary course form reading MC-54-34.
Robert MacIntyre is playing here for the first time, and he makes little appeal.
The Scot's form has tailed off since he won the Italian Open in September and tied 20th in Abu Dhabi is his best performance in 2023. Since then he's compiled form figures reading 38-MC-57-37.
Last year's impressive Andalucía Masters winner, Adrian Otaegui, has plodded along since finishing second at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December with 2023 form figures reading 28-28-36-30-66.
The Spaniard should enjoy the layout here but he finished only 34th on debut last year - although he did sign off the week with a five-under-par 66.
Fellow Spaniard, Adri Arnaus, has drifted out to above 30.029/1 on the exchange and that's quite surprising given his excellent credentials.
Last year's Catalunya Championship winner enjoys a tree-lined test and he has form at all the right places, including here.
Arnaus was eighth here 12 months ago, he was runner-up in this event at Karen Country Club and second at Valderrama in 2019, he has form at Crans reading 6-MC-9 and he arrives in fairly decent nick, with current figures reading 9-MC-13-6-MC.
If you can forgive his weekend off in Singapore last time out (and I can) anything around 30.029/1 looks more than fair.
I was happy to take 32.031/1 about Arnaus and I've chanced three others priced between 44.043/1 and 80.079/1...
With course form figures reading 31-13, as well as a fourth place finish at Crans last year, Jorge Campillo was a very straightforward pick following his excellent fourth in the Indian Open two weeks ago and I see no reason not to back Ewen Ferguson at 65.064/1.
The Scot hasn't been at his best this year but there was always going to be a bit of a lull after such a brilliant start to his DP World Tour career.
Ferguson won twice last year, in Qatar and Northern Ireland, and he was a close second to Oliver Wilson in Denmark too.
He led here by four strokes 12 months ago, having not been in tremendous form before the off and a return to the venue could see an upturn in his fortunes.
This is where he would have realised that he had the game to win on the DP World Tour and a third success on this stage can't be readily dismissed.
My fourth and final pick this week is another Scot - Calum Hill - who has something in common with Ferguson.
Hill won the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle back in 2018 - the venue where Ferguson won the ISPS Handa World Invitational last year - and he might just be ready to contend again.
Hill, who won the Cazoo Classic (formerly the English Open) impressively in 2021, has seen his career derailed after an insect bite caused all sorts of issues but he could be on the way back if his 13th in the Dubai Desert Classic is anything to go by.
Hill finished seventh at Crans a couple of weeks after his victory at the London Club (Cazoo Classic) so although he's never played here before, the course should suit him, and he does have form in Kenya.
Hill finished eighth in this event back in March 2021 at Karen before finishing third at the same venue a week later in the Kenya Savannah Classic.
Adri Arnaus @ 32.031/1
Jorge Campillo @ 44.043/1
Ewen Ferguson @ 65.064/1
Calum Hill @ 80.079/1
I'll be back later today with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter