Opportunity knocks for Conor Purcell in Kenya

Mark McGowan

Conor Purcell (Photo by Johan Rynners/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Portmarnock man Conor Purcell gets a rare DP World Tour start this week at the Magical Kenya Open at Nairobi’s Muthaiga Golf Club, and is the only Irish representative in the 144-man field.

Owing his exemption to his high finish in the 2023 Challenge Tour Road to Mallorca rankings, Purcell gets the opportunity to compete for a share of the $2.5 million purse – an increase of $500,00 on the 2023 prize money – which is $2.15 million more than is up for grabs at the NMB Championship, the Challenge Tour event being held concurrently in South Africa.

As Tom McKibbin has been the only regular Irish participant on the DP World Tour this year since Rory McIlroy returned back to the United States, were Purcell to place in the top 10 he’d automatically gain entry to next week’s SDC Championship in South Africa where another good week could go a long way to securing promotion to the DP World Tour. At the very least, earning himself a weekend tee time should guarantee his biggest payday of the year to date, and his game is in good shape after a 17th place finish in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am on the Challenge Tour where he was unfortunate in round three to be taking on the toughest of the three courses on what proved to be the toughest day.

The field is headlined by Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino, winner of the Qatar Masters a fortnight ago, South African Dylan Frittelli who won the previous DP World Tour event in Bahrain, fellow countryman Thriston Lawrence who is a four-time DP World Tour winner and currently ranked 15th on the Race to Dubai, and past champions Guido Migliozzi of Italy, Justin Harding of South Africa and Ashen Wu from China.

Sadly, Jorge Campillo will not be defending his title as he’s playing in the Mexico Open on the PGA Tour, having finished in the top-10 non-exempt players on the 2023 Race to Dubai, thanks in no small measure to his two-stroke win here last year.

Muthaiga Golf Club is a 7,220-yard par-71, situated on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and at an elevation of over 1,700 metres above sea level, the golf ball will travel much further than it would at sea level, adding an approximated seven percent to carry distance for most players. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bomber’s paradise – far from it, in fact, as the heavily undulating terrain is tree-heavy and it’s more about plotting your way around than simply overpowering. Campillo’s victory last year is evidence of this as the Spaniard is one of the most accurate players off the tee, but ranks in the lower half in driving distance.

The firm, bumpy conditions require an imaginative approach, and Purcell, who grew up playing on the hard turf at Portmarnock Golf Club, should feel right at home when he tees off alongside Germany’s Jannick De Bruyn and Dutchman Lars Van Meijel who start their opening rounds on the 10th tee as part of the afternoon wave, teeing off at 12:40 local which is 09:40 Irish time.


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