Cormac Sharvin, Jonathan Caldwell and Gavin Moynihan will have the weekend off as Scott Hend and Kalle Samooja moved into a share of the lead at the Magical Kenya Open presented by Johnnie Walker, with a packed leaderboard setting up an exciting two days.
Ireland’s competing trio had got off to slow starts on Thursday with Ardglass professional Sharvin the best of them, sitting at one-under par ahead of Friday’s play. However, the 28-year old was only able to add a one-over par 72 on day two, dropping to even par and two shots shy of the weekend mark of minus-two with three birdies and four bogeys on the card.
Clandeboye professional Caldwell also carded a 72 despite five birdies, his second 72 of the week for a two-over par 36-hole tally, while Moynihan, who had it all to do after an opening 77, added a second round 75 to finish well down the board at 10-over par.
Meanwhile, the short and tricky nature of Karen Country Club has resulted in a tightly bunched field after the opening two rounds, but Australian Hend and Finland’s Samooja did enough to edge one shot ahead of the rest on 11-under par. Three-time European Tour winner Hend dropped shot at the last to miss out on the outright lead but a seven under par round of 64 underlined a return to form after three successive missed cuts.
“I played quite solid, hit a lot of the par fours and par fives in regulation so I had some tap in birdies,” said Hend. “I’ve been a little inconsistent and it’s a little bit tricky out there so obviously I shot a good score but I missed a lot of putts so hopefully I can improve on that at the weekend.
“I’ll take what I get though, I’ve been playing terrible golf so far this year so it’s starting to turn around. I’ve just been driving it a bit better, putting a bit better. I’ve got a new set of irons in the bag from Titleist so it’s a combination of everything and hopefully the melon gets back on the shoulders and I can start going forward instead of losing it off in the trees.
“I don’t think the wind affects it that much here because you’re at so much altitude, it’s like Joburg or Crans, unless it’s blowing 40 you really don’t’ pay too much attention to it, so if it’s coming off the left you maybe take it a couple of metres left, instead of ten metres. The ball cuts through the air quite a lot here so it’s not really a big challenge.”
Samooja, meanwhile, birdied his final hole – the ninth – for a five under par 66, the 33-year-old chasing a maiden European Tour victory at an event which has yielded good results in the past – he finished tied for sixth at Karen two years ago while he also earned a top three on the Challenge Tour at this event in 2018, at Muthaiga Country Club.
Scots Richie Ramsay and Connor Syme share third place with Dean Burmester of South Africa on 10 under par, with 38 more players within six shots of the lead heading into the final two days in Nairobi.
Full scoring HERE