Justin Harding is 18 holes away from claiming back-to-back titles in the space of five days after the South African opened up a three-shot lead over an otherwise packed leaderboard heading into the final day of the Kenya Savannah Classic supported by Absa.
The 35-year-old lifted his second European Tour title last week in the Magical Kenya Open presented by Johnnie Walker, having converted a two-stroke advantage heading into the final day. Now, in the second successive event at the beautiful Karen Country Club, Harding has an even bigger lead as he targets a third victory in three years on the Tour.
Should he win, it would the third time he was won back-to-back events – which he achieved on both the Sunshine Tour and the Asian Tour in 2018, all in the space of two months. A five under 66 moved him to 17 under par, three clear of a bunch of six players who share second spot on 14 under.
They include five-time winner Darren Fichardt – the South African making his 401st European Tour appearance this week – and five players who have yet to win on Tour, including David Drysdale – playing in his 519th event.
Justin Harding: “Maybe it’s a bit of a surprise to be three clear because I feel like I struggled a bit out there. I couldn’t seem to give myself a good number from the fairway and when you’re playing at altitude and, as hot as the ball is out here, sometimes it’s hard to get the club selection right.
“After I bogeyed 14 unnecessarily it was anyone’s game, I was just happy with the way I finished and I just gave myself a chance. I’ve got no idea, I seem to be having a good gameplan around here and ultimately I’m probably executing more shots. I’ve hit it good off the tee, maybe not quite as good into the greens but I bailed myself out a couple of times with the putter.
“This morning it felt like everyone was going bananas, so it was a tricky day. I think my par save on eight was a bit of a booster. I think missing a short one on seven but then making that on eight and avoiding the bogey was at least a big plus.”
Kristoffer Reitan: “The front nine was a tonne of fun – the first 11 holes were really fun. I just get in the way of myself – the bogey on 13 can happen, but 15 wasn’t good enough. I was trying really hard to stay free in my swing and I just couldn’t do it on that tee shot and the consequence was a bad shot. The bogey on 16 can happen as well. I’m really, really pleased with the way I finished and get some revenge for what happened on 15.
“I was pissed after 16. I was really trying to get back for the double bogey. I stepped on the 17th tee and looked at the opportunities that lied ahead. I wanted to hit a few good golf swings coming in. Obviously a really good bunker shot on 17, I’m really happy with the last two holes and to carry some momentum into tomorrow.
“The first couple of weeks; I played Qatar and the first tournament in Kenya. I didn’t really get into the rhythm of it. I’m starting to feel better on the golf course, starting to hole some putts, hitting some good wedge shots, some good drives. Just getting off the rust. I feel good.
“I played really well on the first five holes. I was three under par, which I didn’t expect because you just want to get through those holes and the opportunities lie ahead. I was happy with how I started and I carried on going for it. I managed to do that really well for the first 11 holes, I just have to do that for the entire round tomorrow.”
Jazz Janewattananond: “I started pretty slow but had some lucky breaks today for sure. That chip on 11 and putt on 16 got me into the mix. (On six) that is a hole you can make a good score on. I hit a good drive to six feet and holed the putt – pretty standard.
“Last week I played a lot more conservative, I hit a lot more irons off the tee. I’ve got two weeks off after this so I thought why not just go for it. It’s great being in this position. It’s my first time in Kenya, I’m really enjoying the place here. Last week I played with the champion, Harding, over the first two days. I looked at how he played and I’m trying to copy him a little bit.”
Marcus Armitage: “The first four holes were a bit of a battle. I found something on the fourth, tried it on the fifth and shot it straight over the pin and used that for the rest of the round. The putter deserted me a bit today, but it was a solid day.
“I’ve got a switched-on golf brain. A lot of people think I’m a bit of a joker, but I am switched on when it comes to golf. We work well today (my caddie and I). We discussed it a bit more, which is a little different to last week and it seems to be working.
“It would be great. You just want to go out there, strike the ball well and see if the putter gets hot. That’s the key to tomorrow. Whoever putts well tomorrow and leads the putting statistics will win this golf tournament.”