Justin Harding claimed his second European Tour title at the Magical Kenya Open presented by Johnnie Walker after an assured final-round performance helped him convert his 54-hole lead and claim a two-stroke victory at Karen Country Club.
The South African entered the final day with a two-shot advantage over the field and was composure personified throughout as he opened with five straight pars before his round caught fire with a pair of back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh.
He drove the green at the par four ninth and holed from 15 feet in front of the clubhouse to soar into a four-shot lead at the turn. He steadily maintained his lead all the way home and picked up one final birdie on the par four 17th to secure his second European Tour title, courtesy of a five under 66 and a 21 under total – the lowest winning total in the history of Kenya’s national open.
America’s Kurt Kitayama finished second at Karen Country Club, two shots behind Harding, while Scotland’s Connor Syme finished third on 17 under par. Spaniard Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez posted a closing eight under par round of 63 to secure solo fourth place on 16 under par, while French duo Romain Langasque and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and South Africa’s Jacques Kruyswijk finished a shot further back in a share of fifth place.
Justin Harding: “I’m very emotional now. It was hard work, I’m happy with the way I played. Kurt’s a hell of a competitor – I got him back for Mauritius – but I’m glad I went one shot better than a couple of years ago, I was bummed about that, but I was just happy with the way I managed my game.
“I wouldn’t say I was in a slump but I was in a dip in form in terms of mixed results and it was nice to get over the line this time around. Winning isn’t everything but I think being in the winner’s circle again means a little more to me than I thought it did.
“I think I got blown off the golf course like everyone else in Qatar. It was nice to come back to a place that I have nice fond memories of. I know Guido beat me by a shot here a couple of years ago and I felt like I played the golf course well and it is set up nicely for me. I’ve been saying to the guys all week that I think it is one of the fairest golf courses in terms of to the field that the European Tour plays all year. It’s just a fun golf course; you can make a bunch of birdies, you can make bunch of eagles and you can throw in some bogeys there as well. It’s just lovely to play.”
Connor Syme: “I came here a couple of years ago as well and really, really enjoyed the golf course and it was one I was looking forward to coming back to play. I played lovely, to be honest, I played really, really well and it was nice to finish off a good week with a strong finish.
“We’ve got one day off and then back on it but it’s been fun to play the golf course and I’m looking forward to getting back on it.”
Kurt Kitayama: “It was tough to catch him. Obviously I couldn’t but I think I gave it a pretty good effort. I felt like sometimes when I was going to slip away, I chipped in for eagle on 12, that was big, but overall I’m happy with how I fought I’m happy with the result.
“You just have to stick to your game plan. I was hitting my irons well and I just trusted that and down the stretch I just didn’t give myself too many good looks.”