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Magical Kenya Open preview and best bets

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The DP World Tour returns after a week away with the Magical Kenya Open, where Ben Coley has five selections at prices ranging from 25/1 to 70/1.

Golf betting tips: Kenya Open

2pts e.w. Adri Arnaus at 25/1 (BoyleSports, bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1.5pts e.w. Marcus Kinhult at 45/1 (Sky Bet, bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1.5pts e.w. Jayden Schaper at 50/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Angel Hidalgo at 70/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Renato Paratore 70/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

From Middle to Far East and then India, the DP World Tour now makes its way to Africa for the first of three events this side of the Masters, the Magical Kenya Open.

Superbly supported by the locals and volunteers even back in its Challenge Tour days, three televised editions of this tournament so far have provided plenty of entertainment and indeed something of a platform, with subsequent PGA Tour winner Kurt Kitayama having been runner-up two years ago.

It’s Kitayama who helps reveal the key point to consider when studying tournament history: the contrast between Karen, where he blasted his way to second place, and Muthaiga, which hosted at this level for the first time a year ago and saw runaway winner Ashun Wu put a very different set of skills to use.

Accurate off the tee and good on the greens, Wu found Muthaiga much more to his liking and that’s because it is tighter, more undulating, and simply more difficult than Karen, where a number of par-fours can be driven by those with anything like Kitayama’s power.

This course only has one of those, the 17th, and even that yielded just a single eagle a year ago. The man who made it, big-hitting Johannes Veerman, put it nicely: “This course is very tight. I cannot stress how big these trees are. You think you can take these carry lines but you can’t because these trees are 40 yards tall.”

Justin Harding, winner at Karen, stressed that Muthaiga is “different” and that you had to “work your way around it.” All of this was already suggested by wins for Lorenzo Gagli and Aaron Rai, both of them arrow-straight, when it was a Challenge Tour event.

There are of course players who can deal with either challenge and I’ll start with one of them, ADRI ARNAUS, who looks to hold an excellent chance in the sort of field we’ve grown used to of late.

Robert MacIntyre has class and might show it, as could fellow Ryder Cup hopefuls Antoine Rozner and Adrian Otaegui, but beyond them there’s a serious lack of depth and few who boast the ability of Arnaus.

He was a staying-on eighth here last year and while undeniably in red-hot form at the time, it’s easy to argue he’s taken further steps forward since. First and foremost he won in Spain, at a course with some similarities to this one, and more recently he ended last year with ninth place behind Jon Rahm, before finishing 13th behind Rory McIlroy and then ninth in the Ras al Khaimah Championship.

Only a missed cut in Singapore can really be held against him but that was his first start over there, at a course he didn’t know, and Arnaus didn’t appear to putt very well on his way to a swift exit. It’s not a performance to dwell on and he’s since had three weeks off to sharpen things up from his base in Dubai.

As well as that top-10 here a year ago, Arnaus was second over at Karen, and he has some correlating form courtesy of ninth place at Crans in the European Masters. Not only has Wu played well in Switzerland, but runner-up Thriston Lawrence went on to win there, and the first, third and sixth from the 2018 Challenge Tour event at Muthaiga all took part in the same play-off won by Sebastian Soderberg, himself a winner in Kenya.

It looks an especially strong pointer and along with second place at Valderrama, helps identify Arnaus as someone who doesn’t need wide open courses to produce his best form, even if he is a big-hitter.

Throw in some good efforts at altitude and this looks a golden opportunity for a player with big ambitions. He’s 25/1 with most major firms but there’s also some 33/1 if you’ve the right accounts.

Only Julien Brun, Shubhankar Sharma and Wu himself make any kind of appeal among the rest of those who shape this market, but my eye is drawn to potential star JAYDEN SCHAPER at around the 50/1 mark.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Schaper has huge potential having been a star amateur who won the Junior PLAYERS Championship, and we’re really beginning to see him come into his own ahead of his 22nd birthday later this month.

His form on the DP World Tour this season reads 18-9-26-9-MC-17-13, a missed cut in Singapore not difficult to overlook, and his trademark accuracy was on full display for back-to-back top-20s in Thailand and India.

Returning to Africa has to be to his advantage and so does the fact that this course isn’t new to him. Schaper was 34th a year ago having sat 10th at halfway, and his form at the time had been poor at a lower level than the events he’s been playing in recently.

Having been raised in Benoni, which is 1,645m above sea level, conditions here in Nairobi (around 1,750m) will not be an excuse and while recent strokes-gained data is unreliable, what seems clear is that he has full control of his ball.

It’s seldom wise to expect too much from youngsters who are always vulnerable to an off week, but Schaper is the bet I’m most excited about. He has so much ability and if the putts drop he could do a heck of a lot of damage over the course of the next month.

MARCUS KINHULT has a similar frame and a similar game and he too rates each-way value at around the 50/1 mark.

Having been 12th and eighth in two starts here so far, Kinhult’s form is right there in front of us and so are the correlations, having been sixth at Valderrama and always played well in Crans, right back to his amateur days.

He can be a little hard to predict at times and still has to deal with health issues having been diagnosed with epilepsy a couple of years ago, but from the back end of last season through the early stages of this one he hit the ball to a seriously high standard.

Eighth in Dubai was his big reward, Kinhult ranking second among high-class company in strokes-gained tee-to-green, and as with my first two selections I’m not going to spend long on a missed cut as the DP World Tour made a long-awaited return to Singapore.

Since then, Kinhult has taken in three events on the Nordic Golf League, progressing throughout each of them (MC-11-8) and while this is low-grade stuff, it’s the same path he followed last year before taking eighth place in Kenya and then third in Qatar.

The difference now is that he also has some high-class form to his name which was simply not the case 12 months ago, so at the sort of fiddly course we know he enjoys he looks a major player.

Another course to study for clues is Galgorm Castle in Northern Ireland, where Ewen Ferguson won last summer. Ferguson had been the clear leader here in Kenya only to collapse on Sunday, while in behind were others with strong connections to the course that hosts the ISPS Handa World Invitational.

Along with the others mentioned that leads nicely to my final two selections, ANGEL HIDALGO and RENATO PARATORE.

Hidalgo was 10th in India last time, adding that fine effort to eighth behind McIlroy in Dubai and 28th at Al Hamra. He’s a youngster going places and after a slow start to the season, perhaps not surprising given the emotional way in which he secured his card, he’s now played well in three of his last four appearances.

That career-changing week came on home soil at Valderrama, a decent enough guide to this, and he’s also been 13th at Galgorm Castle. Perhaps then it should be no surprise to us that he opened 68-68 to lie fifth here at Muthaiga last year, on his Kenya debut, before fading a little to finish 17th.

Crucially, he’d started the year on the Challenge Tour with form figures of MC-10-MC-MC, so he’s operating at a higher level ahead of his return. Established as a fine putter already and with his approach play occasionally excellent, as was the case in the Ras al Khaimah Championship, he looks a really neat fit.

Paratore primed for big opportunity

Paratore is a smashing bet at the same sort of price, too.

He boasts two top-10s at Crans, fourth place at Galgorm Castle and plenty of good stuff at Valderrama, proving to be another of those powerful players who tends to be better under more fiddly conditions.

Paratore’s driving has improved, however, so that’s not a worry anyway and I love where his game is at the moment, having made eight cuts in nine and not been put off by a narrow failure to keep his playing rights.

Ultimately Paratore rediscovered his scoring touch a little too late to salvage things but it’s back now, and to be frank the only thing that’ll stop him from earning his card back through the Challenge Tour might be the temptation to take every chance he gets at this higher level.

It’s the Challenge Tour however which has him well-prepared for this, having made a strong start to the year in South Africa, and returning to Muthaiga might take of everything with a win enough to get back his full status for the year ahead.

Paratore finished 40th here last year, but context is everything and it was the only cut he made in his first 13 events of the campaign, spanning six months. To open with a round of 68 to lie ninth and close with another having comfortably made the weekend suggests to me that he really took to the place.

As a two-time DP World Tour winner we know he has class and at 26 he still has potential. Silly as it may sound, I tend to think that despite being forced to drop in grade, the last six months have in many ways been the most consistent and impressive of a career which started to take off before he turned 20.

He has a short-game to die for, always handy at a course like this one, and I can see the Italian bypassing the traditional routes back to the DP World Tour by winning this.

At bigger prices, Santiago Tarrio made some appeal but he’s wholly unconvincing on the greens, whereas Daniel Brown excels in that area and, having made the cut in all six DP World Tour starts since earning his card, he is playing better than odds of 125/1 and upwards imply.

Hennie Du Plessis is another South African with an each-way chance but he’s another whose putting has become really problematic, so I’ll stick with a bunch who are capable of lighting up the greens here at Muthaiga.

Posted at 1930 GMT on 06/03/23

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