Justin Harding arrives in confident mood,for the defence of his Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa title this week, the South African having enjoyed a strong start to his 2022 DP World Tour season.
The 35-year-old claimed his second DP World Tour title at Kenya’s national open last year, but will defend on a different course as the historic tournament visits Muthaiga Golf Club for the first time since it was elevated to DP World Tour status in 2019.
Harding, who claimed a two-stroke victory at Karen Country Club last year, put himself in contention for a third win on Tour at last month’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic – where he led or co-led for each of the opening three rounds before finishing tied fourth.
He followed that up with a top ten at the following week’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic so Harding, a seven-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, will be in buoyant form this week in Nairobi.
He is joined in the field by his compatriot Daniel Van Tonder, who won the 2021 Kenya Savanah Classic – the second of back-to-back events in Kenya last year – as well as 2019 Magical Kenya Open winner Guido Migliozzi, who is preparing to make his Masters debut next month.
Justin Harding: “It’s exciting, you don’t always get the opportunity to defend but I’ve always played quite nicely here in Kenya albeit on the other course in Karen. From what I’ve seen so far this week, this golf course at Muthaiga is beautiful, in good nick.
“It’s different, you’ve got to work your way around it. It’s not straight-forward, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be nice, I’ve had a decent enough start to this year, my game’s in good place, so we’ll see what happens.
“I just think winning the second event was a lot harder than the first. The first win in Qatar came on the back of some good performances and I would never say it was expected, but I could maybe see something was happening.
“In the year prior to last year, I wasn’t playing well at all, so to get it over the line and have gotten the job done, it was emotional – good feelings.
“I love Kenya, for one the people are just super-friendly and hospitable. I think the crowds are always great, I’ve loved my time here. They’re very welcoming, they embrace the Kenya Open, it’s got a lot of rich history and it’s always a well-supported event. I haven’t had the opportunity to safari yet, so that’s still on the bucket list.
“It’s essential we come to places like this, I think it’s a big reason why DP World became the title sponsors of the tour. It’s within the culture of the tour that we get to go everywhere. We get to see everywhere – from Asia to Europe to Africa.
“I personally think if you’re playing this tour regularly, it’s going to give you a big kick forward in terms of being able to play on a lot of courses, grasses, fine-tune all aspects of your game.”
Daniel van Tonder: “It’s very exciting to be here. The last time we played here on this course was a few years ago, it’s a great course – a bit different to Karen – but a nice course, it’s very green and I can’t wait to see what happens.
“The win last year meant a lot. I had been knocking on the door for a while, having a co-sanctioned events back home where I came close, but it was special – my first win on the DP World Tour, having my wife on the bag and experience together. It was special.
“It’s special here in Kenya, a different country and a different culture, but at the end of the day it feels like home – the air pressure, the food and everything else. Kenya is a special place, with all the wildlife too. It’s great.
“You get to see the whole world on this tour. We go week to week to different events in different countries but you still mingle and experience different foods, different courses. It’s nice to be back out.
“I didn’t really play that well in Ras Al Khaimah, I struggled with my swing a bit and ended up hitting ball as far away as possible from the water and dog-legs and managed to score well. Got home, went to the gym a bit, chilled and practiced and I feel good now this week, so let’s wait and see.”
Guido Migliozzi: “I remember the emotion of the whole week in 2019, the whole week I was confident with my game. To win on the DP World Tour was an incredible feeling for me. Kenya has a part of my heart now.
“It’s a different world here, the people are so friendly and lovely, I just love coming here to play golf in the sun. It’s very cool.
“I have matured. I want to win more. I’m working on it, I’m not that confident right now but I’m starting to get back to my game and last year I had a really good year. I had good positions at big tournaments so I’m right there.
“I worked really hard this winter, and it’s a dream come true to be going to the Masters. I don’t want to think too much about it, because I have to live in the present. When the day comes, I will go there and I will be in paradise and that day will come soon.
“The golf course is really good, it’s different from Karen. It’s windy now and the greens are small and the fairways are tight so it’s not easy to make the fairways and control the ball, with the altitude and wind, so it’s a good test for everybody.
“That’s one thing that the DP World Tour has, we can travel and have a really good experience in so many countries. We can see a lot of different cultures, lots of different golf courses. We have to adjust our game to where we visit, it’s a good challenge and it’s a good life too.”