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Course Overview. Situated to the north-east of Nairobi, Muthaiga is a 7,228 yard, par 71 parkland layout that dates back to 1926. Peter Matkovich completed a renovation of the track in 2004 which brought the club up to (relatively) modern standards, and from what we saw last year looks pretty impressive as it attempts to justify its ‘Home of Golf’ claim.
5 par-3s and 4 par-5s explains the par 71 description and the front 9 plays considerably longer than the back, with over 400 yards the difference between the two halves. Lakes, ponds and trees present problems for those who are flagrant from off the tee, whilst the club claims to have the fastest greens in East Africa which were laid using Bentgrass as part of Matkovich’s work.
Even going back to the 1960s and 70s, the scoring here at Muthaiga hasn’t tended to get out of control, with -10 to -12 generally a competitive score. Aaron Rai’s winning total of -17 in 2017 was among the lowest totals recorded here, and I suspect that whenever it’s firm underfoot it will present a challenge to the professionals.
Nairobi sits at around 5,000 feet above sea level so the altitude here at Muthaiga also helps the ball fly further, much as it did at the previous venue, Karen Country Club.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Magical Kenya Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event, on both the Challenge Tour and DP World Tour.
For reference, Muthaiga GC hosted the Kenya Open on the Challenge Tour from 2009-12, 2017-18, and last year in 2022 only in this week’s data: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Magical Kenya Open Winners: 2022: Ashun Wu, 60/1; 2021: Justin Harding 33/1; 2019: Guido Migliozzi, 300/1.
Course Winners (Challenge Tour). 2018, Lorenzo Gagli (-11); 2017, Aaron Rai (-17); 2012, Seve Benson (-10); 2011, Michiel Bothma (-14); 2010, Robert Dinwiddie (-12); 2009, Gary Boyd (-13).
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Nairobi is here.
The tournament should enjoy warm (mid-80s Fahrenheit) and dry conditions throughout the 4 days. The breeze picks up a little in the afternoons, and is likely to be noticeable at 10-20mph at times.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. In terms of raw player statistics at Muthaiga, we only have last year’s event to go on:
- 1st: Ashun Wu (-16). 324 yards (63rd), 57.7% fairways (28th), 70.8% greens in regulation (23rd), 66.7% scrambling (14th), 1.62 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2nd: Aaron Cockerill (-12). 338 yards (29th), 69.2% fairways (6th), 66.7% greens in regulation (49th), 58.3% scrambling (40th), 1.66 putts per GIR (3rd).
- 2nd: Thriston Lawrence (-12). 328 yards (53rd), 42.3% fairways (67th), 77.8% greens in regulation (2nd), 43.8% scrambling (68th), 1.76 putts per GIR (24th).
- 2nd: Hurly Long (-12). 325 yards (56th), 40.4% fairways (71st), 70.9% greens in regulation (20th), 61.9% scrambling (28th), 1.71 putts per GIR (9th).
- 5th: David Horsey (-11). 326 yards (55th), 59.6% fairways (23rd), 75% greens in regulation (9th), 72.2% scrambling (7th), 1.77 putts per GIR (28th).
With the altitude here, all players were averaging well in excess of 300 yards off the tee and those players who finished in the leading positions were by no means the longest players on the week, suggesting that driving distance isn’t a major factor here.
GIR was fairly consistent between most players, regardless of how they fared from off the tee, meaning that the event was won and lost on and around the greens with eventual winner Ashun Wu topping the putting statistic on the week.
Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, the same top 5 finishers ranked as follows:
- 1st: Ashun Wu: T: 62nd; A: 4th 3; T2G: 4th; ATG: 28th; P: 4th
- 2nd: Aaron Cockerill: T: 22nd; A: 31st; T2G: 51st; ATG: 72nd; P: 1st
- 2nd: Thriston Lawrence: T: 5th; A: 21st; T2G: 6th; ATG: 53rd; P: 22nd
- 2nd: Hurly Long: T: 14th; A: 45th; T2G: 9th; ATG: 7th; P: 16th
- 5th: David Horsey: T: 33rd; A: 9th; T2G: 14th; ATG: 47th; P: 23rd
Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.
Putting is also highlighted in the SG stats for Ashun Wu, however his 4-stroke victory was also fuelled by impressive SG Approach and SG Tee to Green rankings.
Incoming Form. The incoming form of the last 7 winners here at Muthaiga is as follows:
- 2022, Ashun Wu: 40/45/16/MC/32/MC/MC/16/12/30/MC/42
- 2018, Lorenzo Gagli: MC/6/31/26/MC/19/MC/MC/MC/MC/34/29
- 2017, Aaron Rai: 8/20/10/57/26/58/13/19/34/45/MC/7
- 2012, Seve Benson: MC/16/62/MC/30/MC/MC/20/MC/MC/9/62
- 2011, Michiel Bothma: MC/MC/50/MC/MC/MC/MC/65/23/48/MC/15
- 2010, Robert Dinwiddie: MC/MC/32/MC/MC/70/MC/33/MC/MC/44/5
- 2009, Gary Boyd: MC/MC/6/24/MC/MC/MC/MC/63/MC/40/23
Last year’s winner Ashun Wu had some fairly solid if unspectacular results in his recent past before winning here, with a 12th place finish at the high-class Abu Dhabi Championship to start his 2022 campaign the highlight. 42nd on his previous start 3 weeks before didn’t give many clues, although he did close with his best round of the week, a 68.
In relatively recent times prior to that, Lorenzo Gagli had produced 2 good rounds from 4 at the Tshwane Open and Qatar Master on his last 2 starts at a higher level; similarly Aaron Rai had finished 7th at the Joburg Open on his previous start, before dropping down a level to win.
For completeness, since the Kenya Open joined the main Tour, the incoming form of the winners – including the Kenya Savannah Classic – is as follows:
- 2021, Daniel Van Tonder: 1/10/1/1/28/1/76/39/MC/71/2/MC
- 2021, Justin Harding: MC/11/MC/MC/30/38/MC/48/62/27/41/MC
- 2019, Guido Migliozzi: MC/MC/MC/MC/1/MC/MC/56/MC/MC/63/MC
Of course these results are from Karen Country Club and should be considered accordingly.
For me, players with a preference for short courses and/or those with altitude impacting the ball flight is a positive; likewise those who have shown an ability to perform on quicker Bentgrass greens in the past should enjoy this setup.
My selections are as follows: