As the field of 156 players including six amateurs finally settles down for business in this year’s Barclays Kenya Open Golf Championship at the par 72 Karen Country Club course on Thursday, the beautiful elephant trophy and the top cash prize of €32,000 (about Sh3.58 million)) will once again be up for grabs.
Reigning champion South Africa’s Hydn Porteous, who beat compatriot and close friend Brendon Stone at the 12th hole in a dramatic sudden death play off, will not be at Karen this week to defend his title.
Porteous though did not perform well after his victory at Karen last year. He managed to secure a two-year exemption in the European Tour following his historical victory at the Johannesburg Open two months ago.
Motivated by his friend Stone’s win in the South Africa Open earlier, Porteous not only won the Jo’burg Open but went to on to capture a top 10 finish at the Dubai Desert Classic.
That put him in a more comfortably position in the Race to Dubai hence did not find the need to come and play in the Kenyan event which is offering only €220,000 (Sh24.6 million).The absence of the two therefore gives a chance to the Europeans to try and re-capture the title that has been elusive to them for the past three years.
The last European to lay his hands on the trophy was Spain’s Jordi Garcia Pinto in 2013. On the other hand, there are seven South Africans who are drawn at Karen this week who will be seeking to follow the footsteps of their compatriots.
Since Trevor Immelman’s victory in the millennium (2000) event, the South Africans have won the Kenya Open four more times including Hydn Porteous’s triumph last year. Others who came and won the Open are Ashley Roestoff (2001), Michiel Bothma (2011) and Jake Roos (2014).
Of the eight South Africans who are here to challenge the Europeans and the locals include Christian Bezuitenhout, who is currently ranked sixth in the 2016 Sunshine Tour. His last outing was the Investec Cup last weekend where he was placed 13th.
There is also Jacques Blaauw and Dylan Frittelli, who have been playing well and capable of clinching the Barclays Kenya Open title. Also from South Africa but entered from the European Tour is Danie Van Tonder.
He is among players in the Challenge Tour list in category seven (127th to 149th) in the European Tour’s Road to Dubai 2015 Order of Merit.
These are players who have fallen back to the Challenge Tour to try and seek their way back to the main stream European Tour by capturing the top 15 slots at the end of the Race to Oman (Challenge Tour Order of Merit). This list include Spain’s Carlos del Moral and Italy’s Allessandro Tadini.
There are also those who were placed in Category Six (111th to 126th) in the Race to Dubai.
This features players like Sam Walker from England, Dean Huizing from the Netherlands and Mikael Lundberg of Sweden.
It is an open field where any of those plus the category 10 (players who finished between 46 and 70) in last year’s Challenge Tour order of Merit such as Finland’s Jaako Makitalo and France’s Edouard Dubois all have excellent chances of making it to the top 15 at the end of the season by first taking the season opener (Barclays Kenya Open title).