Kenya Open: Frittelli value to back up Bahrain win

Golfer Jorge Campillo
Jorge Campillo after last year's victory

After a one-week hiatus, the DP World Tour moves on from the Middle East to Africa for the Magical Kenya Open. Read Steve's in-depth preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

  • Accurate Iron play key around Muthaiga

  • Could Qatar provide the clues?

  • Read my Mexico Open preview here


  • Tournament History

    The Magical 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 five 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, but it moved north to the Muthaiga Golf Club in 2022 and we're back there again this week for the third year in-a-row.

    Venue

    Muthaiga Golf Club, Nairobi.

    Course Details

    Par 71 - 7,228

    Stroke average in 2023 - 70.62

    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.

    MUTHAIGA KENYA 2023 3.jpg

    In addition to hosting this event over the last two years, Muthaiga hosted the inaugural Kenya Open in 1967 and it's staged the event over 40 times in total.

    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.


    Weather Forecast


    TV Coverage

    Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 10:00 on Thursday.

    Last Four Winners with Pre-event Prices

    • 2023 - Jorge Campillo -18 50.049/1
    • 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 the Kenya Open?

    We don't have any stats to look back on from the renewals staged here when the event was staged on the Challenge Tour but we do have stats for the last two editions to look back on so here's the top-five and ties with traditional and Strokes Gained stats.

    2023

    • Jorge Campillo -18 DA 3 DD 24 GIR 2 SC 9 PA 28
    • Masahiro Kawamura -16 DA 10 DD 46 GIR 36 SC 28 PA 3
    • Ryo Hisatsune -15 DA 15 DD 55 GIR 8 SC 16 PA 16
    • Santiago Tarrio -15 DA 31 DD 37 GIR 13 SC 2 PA 46
    • Lukas Nemecz -14 DA 31 DD 60 GIR 43 SC 1 PA 53
    • Borja Virto -14 DA 55 DD 17 GIR 31 SC 13 PA 10

    2022

    • 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

    Stats Key

    • DA = Driving Accuracy
    • DD = Driving Distance
    • GIR = Greens In Regulation
    • SC = Scrambling
    • PA = Putting Average

    2023

    • Jorge Campillo -18 Tee 37 App 5 ATG 33 T2G 7 P 12
    • Masahiro Kawamura -16 Tee 47 App 54 ATG 26 T2G 46 P 1
    • Ryo Hisatsune -15 Tee 23 App 28 ATG 49 T2G 27 P 6
    • Santiago Tarrio -15 Tee 31 App 14 ATG 9 T2G 5 P 33
    • Lukas Nemecz -14 Tee 71 App 11 ATG 4 T2G 9 P 34
    • Borja Virto -14 Tee 29 App 31 ATG 6 T2G 8 P 35

    2022

    • 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

    Stats Key

    • Tee = SG: Off the Tee
    • App = SG: Approach
    • ATG = SG: Around the Green
    • T2G = SG: Tee to Green
    • P = SG: Putting

    It's only two years' worth of data but accuracy off the tee has been more important than distance and both winners ranked highly for Strokes Gained: Approach and SG: Tee to Green. Campillo ranked second for Greens In Regulation, whereas Ashun Wu ranked only 28th but he putted better than the Spaniard.

    That all makes sense given the tree-lined nature of the track.

    Is There an Angle In?

    There are various form lines at other tree-lined tracks.

    Aaron Rai won his first pro title here in 2017 and a few shrewdies were onboard when he won his first DP World Tour event a year later at a similar venue - Fanling in Hong Kong.

    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 too.

    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 of the Kenya Open here but the 1974 Wentworth winner, Maurice Bembridge, won the next two editions and there are numerous examples of players placing at both venues.

    Other courses to consider are Valderrama and Crans-sur-Sierre, with the latter named proving a good link two years ago.

    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 in 2022 here, beat Matt Wallace in extra time to with the European Masters in August 2022.

    Like Muthaiga, Crans is tree-lined and positioned at a high altitude so form there is clearly worth plenty but rather bizarrely, the Qatar Masters has thrown up some crossover form recently.

    Ashun Wu.jpg

    Wu led there after round one two weeks ago before eventually finishing ninth, tying his best result since he won here, Ewen Ferguson, who led here by four stokes with a round to go when Wu won, was victorious at the Qatar Masters in 2022 and last year's winner here, Campillo, has a very solid bank of form at Doha and he was an unlucky loser there last year.

    That could all be entirely coincidental but given the Qatar Masters was the most recent event staged on the DP World Tour, it may well be worthy of consideration.

    Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

    • 2022 - Ashun Wu - tied 2nd trailing by four 10.09/1
    • 2023 - Jorge Campillo led by one 3.3512/5

    In-Play Tactics

    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 the last two winners of this event, Wu and Campillo, sat five adrift after 36 holes so a sluggish start can be overcome 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 two years ago (Wu sat tied second) but he eventually finished tied eighth and four course winners before him were all trailing with a round to go but Campillo hit the front after 54 holes last year, thanks to a brilliant eight-under-par 63 on Moving Day.

    The last two results here look slightly unusual given 36-hole leaders have a slightly better record than 54-hole leaders. Since 1996, 18 players have led or co-led at halfway and six went on to win, whereas only six of the 19 players to lead or co-lead after three rounds have been victorious.

    Market Leaders

    Thriston Lawrence and Ewen Ferguson are vying for favouritism in a weak event, and both are fairly priced at around the 16/117.00 mark.

    Lawrence is a winner at Crans, he finished second to Ashun Wu two years ago here, on his only previous visit, and he was in fair form at the end of 2023 and the beginning of this year, putting up a run that saw him finish inside the top-11 in five straight events.

    However, he does appear to have gone off the boil a bit since finishing second at the Dubai Invitational to Tommy Fleetwood, missing the cut at the Dubai Desert and the Ras Al Khaimah Championship before finishing a disappointing tied 49th in Qatar, where he failed to break 70.

    After his 23rd in Ras Al Khaimah and his ninth in Qatar, Ferguson arrives in slightly better form than Lawrence and we know this venue suits his eye perfectly given he led here by four after 54 holes two years ago.

    His 76 on Sunday back then was a poor performance in the mix but he's since gone on to win twice on the DP World Tour and he commands plenty of respect.

    Ferguson finished only 47th last year but I suspect he'll improve on that this time around and if forced to back one of the market leaders, he'd be my choice.

    Ewen Ferguson in Ireland.jpg

    Rikuya Hoshino was a very impressive winner of the Qatar Masters last time out and he's held his form nicely in the past but it's rare to witness someone winning back-to-back events and he missed the cut here on debut last year.

    Selections

    I was happy to take a small chance on the 2022 winner, Ashun Wu, who lead after round one in Qatar last time out.

    His ninth placed finish there equalled his best finish since he won here so I thought he was fairly priced at 70.069/1.

    Back Ashun Wu @ 70.069/1

    Bet now

    I'll have at least one selection here for the Find Me a 100 Winner column but my only other selection at a double-figure price is the recent Bahrain Championship winner - Dylan Frittelli - who looks a great price at 75.074/1.

    Frittelli missed the cut at the Qatar Masters the following week but that's hardly surprising. He will have celebrated his victory in Bahrain the week before and after a bit of a break he can refresh and go again.

    Frittelli is a class act on his day, and he very much enjoys a tree-lined test, as his fifth-placed finish in the US Masters in 2020 testifies.

    Back Dylan Frittelli @ 75.074/1

    Bet now

    He's twice finished inside the top-seven in this event at Karen Country Club and he's been dismissed far too readily given how impressive he was in Bahrain.


    *You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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