Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin raced out of the traps with six-under par 65s to share fifth after the opening day of the European Tour’s Kenya Savannah Classic.
The Northern Irish duo, who both missed the cut at last week’s Magical Kenya Open, should have no such concerns this week after getting their eyes in early at Karen Country Club.
36-year old Caldwell kick-started his season into gear with six birdies, including three in his first three holes on Thursday in a bogey-free opener in Nairobi. Looking to arrest a run of four missed cuts dating back to November’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, the Clandeboye professional trails a four-way tie for first place by a single stroke after an encouraging start.
Ardglass professional Sharvin sits alongside Caldwell in a tie for fifth with five birdies and an eagle on his card that included one dropped shot. The 28-year old has enjoyed a consistent enough start to the season, highlighted by a share of 21st at the Saudi International in February, but he’ll no doubt love to get himself in contention for a title as his development continues on Tour.
It was a day of hot scoring at Karen Country Club, meaning Gavin Moynihan’s one-over par round of 72 leaves him with work to do to arrest an alarming run of missed cuts. Yet to play all four rounds since the Austrian Open last July, Moynihan will need a low one on Friday after managing just two birdies in an opening showing that leaves him outside the top-100 on the leaderboard.
Meanwhile, at the top of the board, Justin Harding picked up exactly where he left off at Karen Country Club as the South African carded a seven under par 64 to move into a share of the first round lead, just two days after his triumph at the Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa.
The 35-year-old claimed his second European Tour title in Nairobi on Sunday, breaking the lowest winning score record at Kenya’s historic national open with a 21-under par total, and he equalled his lowest round of last week with an opening 64 in the second of the back-to-back tournaments at the same venue.
Harding has already won back-to-back events in his career, on the Sunshine Tour in 2018, and he will be looking to become the first player to win consecutive European Tour events since Justin Rose won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open in consecutive weeks in 2017.
“It’s quite different, to be fair,” said Harding. “We are playing the same golf course so my strategy stays the same – front foot forward and see if we can keep doing what we were doing last week. I played pretty good again, solid.
“I played here in 2019 as well. Then I wasn’t able, with technology, to knock it on the par fours. It’s changed a little bit. Then I play back and leave myself a wedge in my hand, I don’t like the draw off the tee, especially with the wind blowing off the left. Then a couple of the others set up nicely. On 15 I learned my lesson Friday afternoon, I hit one in the bush and I’ve hit three wood ever since. It’s the type of golf course where you don’t have to birdie every hole, but if you execute your plans you have a hell of a lot of birdie chances – so play the tough holes properly.
“It’s always easy when you’re playing well. Don’t ask me where it came from. I’m playing solid and finally rolling a couple of putts in. Ultimately just keeping it in play and trying to keep the bogeys off the card – there was a silly one on 16 but was happy enough to make a birdie on 17.”
Joost Luiten, meanwhile, drew on some fond memories of his very first Challenge Tour appearance at Karen Country Club, as he joined Harding – along with Spain’s Alejandro Cañizares and Frenchman Clément Sordet – at the top of the leaderboard.
Full scoring HERE