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Gavins takes early lead in Kenya

Daniel Gavins of England tees off the 12th hole during day one of the Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club on March 03, 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Daniel Gavins of England tees off the 12th hole during day one of the Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club on March 03, 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Daniel Gavins moved into a one-stroke lead at the Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa after the Englishman carded a seven under opening round 64 at Muthaiga Golf Club.

The 30-year-old, who claimed his maiden DP World Tour title at last year’s ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management, opened with a birdie at the par five tenth hole and it was a run of six birdies in seven holes from the 17th which launched him into the mix early in the day.

He picked up shots at the seventh and the ninth, his closing hole, to take the first round lead ahead of Johannes Veerman of the USA and India’s Shubhankar Sharma.

Veerman, a winner at last year’s D+D Real Czech Masters, came flying out of the blocks with an eagle at the tenth – his first – and only dropped one shot en route to a six under 65. He was joined in a share of second by two-time DP World Tour winner Sharma, who went bogey-free in the opening round.

Englishman Lee Slattery and Ewen Ferguson, meanwhile, shared fourth spot on five under par. South African duo Justin Harding and Daniel van Tonder – both winners in Kenya last year – each carded rounds of 68 to put themselves within four shots of the lead heading into day two in Nairobi.

Player quotes:

Daniel Gavins: “It was pretty rusty to start with, I hadn’t played for a couple of weeks but I just started holing a few putts.

“My second shot at the ninth (his last) hit the flag and it knocked it 60 or 70 feet back down the green. Obviously I holed the 70-footer which was a bit surprising but it was nice to finish with a birdie.

“My swing has been a bit off at the start of the year and I’ve been struggling a little bit with finding the feeling the really, but today I felt a few things that were nice and it was positive really.

“It was a long stretch at the start of the year so it was nice put the clubs away for five days and go to New York. It was pretty cold but it was nice. The weather is always great here and I don’t like spending too much time in the cold, so it’s nice to be out here.”

Johannes Veerman: “It’s felt great to hit two good shots to open with at the tenth, and it was basically a tap-in for eagle. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that!

“When you get off to a start like that it jump-starts things, you get more confidence after only hitting two golf shots. I birdied my third hole and from there I was just on cruise control and just kept making birdies.

“I’m very happy. This course is very tight, I cannot stress how big these trees are. You think you can take these carry lines but you can’t because these trees are 40 yards tall. So I’m really happy with how I played and I’m really happy with six under.

“My little man (new baby boy) is really good. Someone said to me earlier in the week that they didn’t realise how selfish they were with their time until they became a dad and I thought, that couldn’t be more true.

“My days have to be so much more structured now, not only does he need me but I also want to be with him. I have a new son and it’s just amazing.”

Shubhankar Sharma: “I am really happy, I played really well, didn’t drop a shot which was bonus. I made some good par putts and to make that birdie on the 18th was especially satisfying.

“For me, I’ve changed a lot with my thinking from two years ago. Two years ago I was younger and wanted to play everything. I would play seven weeks in a row if I could.

“Now, if I’m playing well I understand that I need to conserve my energy. I don’t feel like I want to stay on the road all the time so a few weeks and going home really helps. I’m refreshed this week, I’ve had a few weeks off and you can see that in the first round, it’s been a good day.

“It offers you a lot of risk and reward holes, a lot of holes where you can take driver on and probably have a wedge in. It temps you in a lot of places but you’ve got to play to your strengths and my strength is my iron play and a lot of the holes where I felt like I could have hit driver, I laid up with two irons and four irons and I think that strategy worked really well. I hope to do that for the next few days.”

Round one scores