Justin Harding is in pole position for a second European Tour title as the South African carries a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Magical Kenya Open presented by Johnnie Walker, courtesy of a seven under par third round 64 at Karen Country Club.
The 34-year-old won his maiden title almost exactly two years ago at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which continued a remarkable rise up the Official World Golf Ranking – peaking at 42nd in May of 2019.
Included in that strong run of form was a share of runner-up spot at the 2019 Magical Kenya Open, and the 34-year-old will be hoping to go one better at Karen as he looks to build on his 16 under par total.
Three players shared second spot on 14 under, with Johannes Veerman carding a flawless course-record 62 which comprised nine birdies. He was joined by his American compatriot Kurt Kitayama – who recovered from a tough spot at the seventh as his ball embedded in a sponsor board, eventually signing for a 66 – and Australia’s Scott Hend, who carded a 68. Scotland’s Callum Hill was a stroke further back on 13 under after a four under 67.
Justin Harding: “I played pretty good to be fair. I hit it solidly the first 12 holes and managed to make a couple of putts. I holed a wedge on ten which was an added bonus. Then after that I had my usual struggles on the 13th through the 17th and managed to roll in a good putt on the 18th to give myself a bit of an extra boost.
“I’ll give it my best effort. The golf course lends itself to a bunch of birdies. If you execute your golf shots and roll in a couple of putts you can certainly post a score. As you can see today, there are a couple of guys that went really deep.
“It’s just a matter of really taking advantage of the par fives and a couple of the driveable par fours and at the end of the day just being one shot better than the next guy. You’ve got to play it hole by hole. Two shots ahead, you’ll probably find that by the time I tee off I’m not going to be leading. It’s just going to be a matter of executing plans and trying to get over the line.”
Scott Hend: “The back nine today was a little bit average again but it’s only Saturday, and the leader on Saturday doesn’t necessarily lead on Sunday. I just need to be in position at the turn and come home hard.
“The only reason it played hard today was because I made it play hard. I three-putted from ten feet on ten and made a mess of the 11th and the 12th holes, which are three pretty easy holes heading into the back nine. If you don’t take advantage of those holes you’re on the back foot straight away.”
Johannes Veerman: “I’ve been hitting it well all week so I just knew that if I could get it right on the putting greens that I could score a low one today.
“This course is tough but if you hit it well there’s a lot of birdies you can make – some driveable par fours, all the par fives are reachable – if you can get the flat stick rolling you can go deep. Yesterday I spent a lot of time just grooving my stroke down, trying to get the speed right and trying to get it down.
“Hole number two, I made a putt from 15 feet and I thought ‘oh my, I think this is it, I think we’re rolling’. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m going to practise putting, see if it’s still there, it should be still there after the round today.
“I’ll just kind of keep the process going, I’m hitting it well, I’m putting it well now and for the most part, just keep it all in check. Do my post-round practice and then go for it again.”
Kurt Kitayama: “I got off to a good start, got it going early, and overall I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. At the seventh I hit the sponsor board with my drive and it got stuck in there. I got a rules official, but no penalty thankfully!
“I don’t think I have a score in mind, I’m just going to go out, play my game and just let it come to me. I’ll pay attention to the leaderboard and see what I’m going to do because I’m chasing right now. We’ll watch as we go along.”