Tom McKibbin fired a two-under-par 69 in the opening round of the DP World Tour’s Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi to lead the Irish contingent and end the opening day tied for 31st, three strokes ahead of Gary Hurley, while John Murphy’s struggles continued.
A disappointing bogey at the par-5 10th – his first of the day – wasn’t the start McKibbin was hoping for, and he’d trade a single birdie with another bogey from there to make the turn at +1 for the tournament. Three straight pars saw him reach the fourth hole – his 13th – in search of inspiration and he’d find it with an eagle-three at the 550-yard par-5.
He’d add another birdie at the eighth, dropping no further shots to sign for a round of -2 that for long periods looked as though it would be plus-figures, and he’ll start the second round five-strokes off the lead.
Hurley, playing the course in the traditional order, bogeyed the second and the eighth holes, but the latter was sandwiched by birdies at seven and nine and he’d head to the back nine at level par. A birdie-four at the tenth took him to red figures for the first time, but his sub-par round was short lived, and bogeys the 11th, 15th and 16th would push him back out to +2.
He’d birdie the par-5 closing hole, however, posting +1, and he’d end the day in a tie for 98th and with work to do if he’s to earn himself a weekend tee time.
John Murphy’s rough start to his rookie DP World Tour season continued, despite starting his round in the most positive of manners with an eagle-three at the 10th, his first hole of the day. From there, it was all downhill however, and he’d card 10 bogeys – six of them coming on his second nine – to sign for an eight-over 79, with little chance of making his first cut since graduating from PGA Tour Q-School last November.
The early pace was set by American John Catlin and South African Dylan Mostert – the latter playing alongside McKibbin – at -7. Mostert birdies eight with a solitary bogey, while Catlin went bogey free with five birdies and an eagle.
They lead Pierre Pineau and Wil Besseling by one, with a further five players an additional shot back at -5.
“I feel like I left some out there on my back nine,” said Catlin, who played the stretch in one under. “I got off to a really hot start and just made some bad swings, I didn’t take advantage of the par fives and hit a really bad lay-up on seven. It was a god round of golf, I left a few out there for sure.
“A nice way to build some momentum. I feel like I’ve been close, just a poor swing here, misjudgement here, that’s all it takes out here. It’s very fine margins. I was able to take two weeks off, put some work in on my game and it feels like it’s starting to pay off, so I’m really excited about that.”
Mostert felt that the early starters, of which he was one, had a clear advantage. “The greens are small,” he said, “so if you’re hitting greens you’re going to have a lot of chances. I manage to make a few putts, I’ll just keep doing the same thing. I’m excited for tomorrow.
“The greens are quite soft in the morning, they definitely firm up throughout the day. As soon as the wind picks up and the heat gets up they firm up and get faster, much tougher. It’s definitely an advantage to play early in the morning.”
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