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Kenya Open Betting Tips: Adrian Otaegui is our top pick for the week in Africa

Kenya Open: Adrian Otagegui leads our six picks for Muthaiga
Kenya Open: Adrian Otagegui leads our six picks for Muthaiga

After a three-week break, the DP World Tour returns to action this week for a three-event run on the African continent. We kick off this week with the Kenya Open and head down to South Africa for two new events the next two weeks.

The Kenya Open is a relatively new event to the DP World Tour, making its debut in 2019, having been a regular fixture on the Challenge Tour since 1991. Back in those Challenge Tour days, the event used to alternate between Karen Country Club and Muthaiga Golf Club. After the first two renewals taking place at KCC, it’s Muthaiga’s turn to showcase its course as a DPWT event.

Kenya Open Tips

THE COURSE

Muthaiga Golf Club is a 7184 yard par 71, though will play that little bit shorter due to being at altitude. It has been redesigned by South African architect, Peter Matkovich. Who most notably to DPWT followers designed Heritage Golf Club, home of the Mauritius Open in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

The course is unusual as a par 71 which still possesses four par 5s, as well as five par 3s and just the nine par 4s. 

The two 9s contrast greatly, with the front 9 measuring a good 500 yards longer than the back 9. Possessing a par four just over and just under 500 yards, as well as a 600+ yard par 5. 

Onto the back 9, which looks the most scorable part of the course, offering multiple risk-reward opportunities. These include the two finishing holes - a drivable par 4 17th and the sub 540 yard par 5 18th, both with the danger of water lurking to collect errant approaches to the green. 

It’s a classic, tight, tree-lined course, with doglegs throughout and plenty of bunkers. Greens are small for the most part and slick. Whilst on the back 9 water comes into play on upto seven holes and shows again the complete contrast between those two 9s.

With little in the way of stats it’s tough to know exactly what to expect but it certainly doesn’t look too dissimilar from Karen Country Club, which hosted the event the previous two years. I also thought there was more than a bit of Crans-sur-Sierre about it, the home of the European Masters and it may pay to look closely at that event for clues.

This is on evidence when we look at the most recent renewals of this event on this course on the Challenge Tour. Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli won in 2018 and has finished 2nd at Crans. As has 3rd place finisher in Kenya to Gagli, Kalle Sammoja. Whilst 6th place finisher in that 2018 Kenya Open at Muthaiga, Sebastian Soderberg, won at Crans in 2019.

Then in 2017, in the edition won by Aaron Rai, we find Frenchman, Adrien Saddier as runner-up, who has also gone well in Switzerland, finishing 7th there last year. 

THE WEATHER

The weather looks set to play its part this week in Kenya, with a strong breeze predicted throughout the four days of the event. Making an already tricky course that bit more demanding.

THE FIELD

Not the strongest of DP World Tour fields but intriguing all the same. The previous two winners in Kenya, Justin Harding and Guido Migliozzi both tee it up and after having chances limited in the opening few events of the year, it will be good to once again see an event with most of last season’s Challenge Tour graduates competing.

SELECTIONS

We have a market headed by Dean Burmester at 14/1, with Justin Harding, Adri Arnaus and Adrian Meronk all occupying second favouritism at 16s. This in itself is a sign of the lack of strength in this field. None of these appeal at the prices, Harding would be the most tempting in terms of skillset and his good record at the Karen course should prove a good guide but he’s been poor in contention since missing the chance to go back-to-back here in Kenya last year. 

The same thoughts are applied to many at between 20/1-35/1. Plenty of players there who could go well but at prices that just don’t tempt me enough to jump in. With that I have a bunch of guys at the 40/1-50/1 mark, starting with Spain’s Adrian Otaegui.

Golf odds
Adrian Otaegui each-way (1/5 8 places)
40/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-01 10:40 Odds subject to change.

Otaegui has had a strong start to the season in the Middle East. After a poor missed cut in Abu Dhabi to kick off the year, he’s made the next three cuts, with an impressive 3rd place finish in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship sandwiched in between two finishes in the 40s. 

Otaegui’s putted excellently for the most part so far this season and is looking solid around-the-greens and in approach, whilst also finding plenty of fairways. Straight and steady is the hallmark of his game, which should serve him well this week as it’s very much something which he has in common with the two aforementioned previous winners of the event at this venue.

He doesn’t have the benefit of a spin around here, though does have a good record in the event when staged at Karen Country Club. Finishing 14th there on the Challenge Tour back in 2013 and then carrying that form over to the event since its upgrade to a DPWT event, finishing 24th and 42nd in the two events staged last year.

Otaegui is a three-time DPWT winner, which makes him more prolific than most players in this field. The most recent of those wins coming in the 2020 Scottish Championship. He went close again last year, finishing 2nd in the Scandinavian Mixed Invitational, an event he’ll really feel like he ought to have won.

With the accuracy he possesses tee-to-green, he very much fits the profile of the type of player I’m looking for this week. He should fancy his chances in this field and can pick up that 4th DPWT title that just eluded him in Sweden last year.

Ashun Wu each-way (1/5 8 places)
50/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-01 10:45 Odds subject to change.

The theme of straight, steady types continues with China’s Ashun Wu who’s enjoying a solid start to the year thanks to a hot putter and some quality approach play, with both of those areas being aided by his accuracy off-the-tee.

That strong start to the year saw Wu finish 12th in a really strong field in the Abu Dhabi Championship, this performance thanks to ranking 5th on the greens and 14th in approach. He transferred these same qualities to a solid 30th place finish in another strong field in the Dubai Desert Classic, ranking  9th in putting and though not quite as good in approach, 33rd was more than solid.

In his two most recent starts, he has a narrow missed cut in another strong field in the Saudi International and finished 42nd in the Ras Al Khaimah Classic on his most recent start.  A solid performance on a course which doesn’t really suit his game and negated his biggest assets.

Another without the benefit of a start here but he possesses excellent form on two of the most interesting courses in relation to this week’s venue. He’s twice hit the top 10 at Crans-sur-Sierre in the Omega European Masters, finishing 9th in 2017 and 6th in 2018. In addition, he’s recorded two top 20s at Heritage Golf Club in the Mauritius Open, as mentioned, another Matkovich design, finishing 13th in 2019 and 20th in 2017.

Wu is another three-time DPWT winner. With the quality form he’s showing this year and possessing the type of game I’m expecting will be best suited to this week’s test, he looks likely to carry on that strong start to 2022.

Shubhankar Sharma each-way (1/5 6 places)
50/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-01 10:45 Odds subject to change.

Just three starts ago, Shubhankar Sharma was finishing runner-up to Thomas Pieters in the Abu Dhabi Championship. A couple of underwhelming performances have followed but with the quality of his approach game, not just this year but that he’s been showing since last year, I think he may be able to go one better than that 2nd place finish this week.

That impressive performance from Sharma was one engineered by a superb putting performance, where he led the field on the greens and matched with quality iron play, ranking 8th in the field.

As mentioned, quality iron play has been the story of Sharma’s game the last 12 months and saw him rank 20th on tour in the 2021 season in approach. Also ranking high in driving accuracy last year in 44th and possesses a solid enough short-game.

He hasn’t played here before, though he does possess form at a couple of courses that could correlate here. The most appealing of those is a strong record in the Hong Kong Open at Fanling, an event where Aaron Rai has tasted victory. An old-fashioned, tight, tree-lined course. Sharma has twice finished in the top 10 there, finishing 10th in 2018 and 6th in 2019. 

His most high profile career performances are littered with other similarly classic tree-lined courses. Such as a top 10 at Wentworth in the BMW PGA Championship and his 9th place finish in the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec, a course which really has a look of Muthaiga and is also at high altitude.

It’s been over four years since the talented young Indian golfer burst onto the scene on the DPWT, winning two titles in a matter of months. He endured a bit of a down period after those initial successes but at just 25 is still super young. 

With plenty of signs over the last 12 months that he’s started to get close to winning again, this looks a good chance for him to do so if able to continue to produce the type of approach performances that have helped his resurgence.

US Masters odds
Joost Luiten each-way (1/5 8 places)
50/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-01 10:50 Odds subject to change.

This theme of proven DPWT winners continues next with Dutchman Joost Luiten, who is a six-time winner on tour, though it has been four years since he last tasted success. He rarely looked like ending that winless run last year, looking particularly poor towards the end of 2021 but with some small improvements in his approach play at the start of this year I’m going to roll the dice on the historically excellent ball-striker returning to some real form this week in Kenya. 

He started this year with two rather uninspiring missed cuts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, though did show some slightly improved approach play on that start in Abu Dhabi, compared to his form at the end of last year. 

Luiten then headed to Ras Al Khaimah for the second event of that double header, finishing 33rd in the Ras Al Khaimah Classic. Once again showing small improvements with his irons. On the face of it, these small improvements don’t look wholly impressive but I feel it’s significant when comparing it to just how poor he was over those final six events of 2021, routinely losing a large amount of strokes in approach in a stretch that saw him miss four out of six cuts. 

Another asset always associated with Luiten at his best was the quality, particularly the accuracy of his driving and this is something which he has maintained, even during his poorest runs. Including in those opening three events of this year.

Luiten hasn’t played here before but has gone well in this event at Karen CC, indeed his 7th place finish in last year’s Kenya Savannah Classic was his best finish of 2021. In addition to this, if we’re looking at tricky, tight, tree-lined courses, you can look no further in Europe than Valderrama, home of the Andalucia Masters, a course where Luiten has twice finished runner-up, in 2016 and 2017.

The gains have been small and are still a far cry from the type of stuff Luiten was producing at his very best a few years ago but from these types of improvements often comes more substantial growth. With him still driving the ball solidly and accurately, this could well be a good place for Luiten to make a little more noise and if able to find further improvements with his approach play, he can get himself in the mix come Sunday’s final round.

Sean Crocker each-way (1/5 7 places)
50/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-01 10:50 Odds subject to change.

This is very much a selection based on potential and ability rather than current form, as America’s Sean Crocker has been poor on his two outings this year. Though this could be a good place for the talented ball-striker to bounce back and even more importantly, pick up an overdue first victory. 

There is really very little to say about Crocker’s first two starts this year, he played poorly in two missed cuts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with no parts of his game showing a spark of life in the four rounds he spent out on the golf course.

This poor start has been a little surprising as Crocker enjoyed a really strong 2nd half to 2021. He hit the top 10 on five occasions over his final fourteen starts last year with a 2nd place finish in the Czech Masters his best effort. 

During this period he was at his ball-striking best, which contributed to him finishing 2021 as the 5th best player off-the-tee and 7th best in approach on the DPWT for the year. Though his short-game is a different story and undoubtedly the area of his game that has stopped him tasting success so far in his career. 132nd around-the-greens and 174th in putting, showing the huge difference in quality in those differing areas of his game. 

Having said that, the quality of his long game is such, that it wouldn’t take huge improvements on and around-the-greens to see him get one over the line. He lost 1.2 strokes a round with his short game in that 2nd place finish in Czech, 0.6 a round when 4th in the Euro Masters and 0.86 a round when 8th in the Dubai Championship on his 2nd to last start of last year. Just moderate improvements would have seen him get one over the line. 

Crocker hasn’t played here but did finish 12th at Karen CC in 2019. Further to this is the aforementioned Euro Masters 4th last year, a place where he hasn’t missed the cut in three visits and a top 20 in Hong Kong in 2018 offers more encouragement, whilst also providing another example of how Crocker at his ball-striking best can go well at these types of courses. 

I see this selection a little like Nicolai Hojgaard at Ras Al Khaimah. Crocker is another extremely talented player who should relish this drop in field strength and if back to his ball-striking best can handle these tight tree-lined corridors more than most. He just needs to have that week where he finds a little extra on and around-the-greens to finally get one over the line.

Adrien Saddier each-way (1/5 7 places)
125/1
Odds correct as of 2022-03-01 10:55 Odds subject to change.

I’m going to finish off with Frenchman Adrien Saddier. As a runner-up here to Aaron Rai in 2017 and having continued to show the encouraging form he ended 2021 with, when starting his year on the Challenge Tour a couple of weeks ago to finish 7th, I was surprised to find him at such a big price this week. 

With the fact that Saddier was starting his year on the Challenge Tour, you could be forgiven for thinking his 7th place finish in the Dimension Data Pro-Am was a return to form for the Frenchman but he actually looked good in his final four starts of 2021 on the DPWT.

He ended last year with a run of results that read: 7-44-15-54, the 7th place finish coming at the correlating Crans-sur-Sierre. During this run there was a notable improvement in his approach play and off-the-tee where he’d started to find a little more accuracy.

He then started this year finishing 7th in the Dimension Data Pro-am on the Sunshine Tour, an event co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour. Though that doesn’t quite tell the full story, as Saddier led at the halfway point, thanks to opening with rounds of 63 and 66. He blew up in round three, shooting 77 but I was buoyed by the manner in which he fought back on the Sunday, shooting a 68 to rise up to 7th place. 

Further to his 2nd place finish here in 2017 and the 7th place finish in the European Masters last year, Saddier has more form in Kenya, finishing 17th in this event at Karen CC in 2019. Adding further optimism for his chances.

He looks a great price this week. Good form since the back end of last year, particularly improving in approach and off-the-tee, with a runner-up finish at the course to his name. As well as a strong, recent piece of correlating form. He can build on his good start on the Challenge Tour back on the main tour, in a field not a whole lot weaker than those which have been teeing it up in South Africa in recent weeks.

golf betting tips
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