Final-round preview and best bets for Magical Kenya Open

Final-round preview and best bets for Magical Kenya Open

Ben Coley’s 50/1 tip Jayden Schaper is in the mix in the Kenya Open, but Robert MacIntyre looks like he’ll be hard to beat on Sunday.

Jayden Schaper will carry our hopes into the final round of the Kenya Open, and this star in the making will have had to earn it the hard way if he does secure a breakthrough professional title.

Schaper will start the day two off the lead, surrounded by players who have far more experience of Sundays in the mix, and much of it positive. He’s been in this situation once on the DP World Tour and struggled badly, albeit that was more than two years ago and at the fearsome Leopard Creek.

With more experience in the locker and a sustained period of strong form, this sweet-swinger might just manage it. Whatever happens, his compact, repeatable action promises to be the backbone of a fine career and it would be surprising if he’s not won at some level by the end of 2023.

Doing so here will take care of everything and after a strong finish to round three, I doubt he’ll go far. Schaper was a brilliant amateur and looks made for the professional game, undoubtedly among the most promising players to emerge from South Africa since Branden Grace. Much will depend on how his short-game holds up.

Jorge Campillo has held one clear lead in his career at this level and converted it in Qatar, but that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. He shot a final-round 72 and needed a magic putting display to get the better of David Drysdale in a play-off, and in general remains the sort to oppose as favourite.

His main challenge here is expected to come from another Scotsman, ROBERT MACINTYRE, and he’s clearly the man to beat.

MacIntyre again bossed the par-fives on his way to a second successive 65 and nobody has scored better over the last 36 holes. He missed a good chance to eagle the last but from one behind is in a fantastic position.

“It was good,” he declared. “Pretty good off the tee, approach play has been the strength the last wee while. Overall, my game’s in decent shape.

“(The putter) been something that’s holding me back, but the last few days I’m seeing it go in. I’m feeling really comfortable standing over putts just now. It’s feeling good in the hands.”

That change in putting set-up has done the trick and we know he’s a capable predator, having won the Italian Open from off the pace, beating Matt Fitzpatrick and a handful of top DP World Tour performers.

When he did that, many of us felt MacIntyre would go on to justify odds-on quotes to make the Ryder Cup side, but a slow start to 2023 plus wins for Adrian Meronk, Antoine Rozner, Justin Rose, Victor Perez and Thorbjorn Olesen means he’s got plenty still to do.

That leads us to why Sunday is such a big day for him. MacIntyre should just about sneak into the WGC Match Play Championship with a win, and suddenly a place in the Masters would be on the radar. Access to the majors can’t be called essential given the lack of obvious options in Europe, but it would be a big step toward achieving what is his main goal for the year.

Perhaps that will prove his undoing, but the way MacIntyre rose to the occasion in Rome, the way he’s performed at the very highest level, suggests it could be the sort of thing that makes the difference in a positive way. He’s not playing next week so it’s all-or-nothing, and at 5/2 I’m keen to have him on-side along with Schaper at 50s.

Over the past six months or so we’ve had some off-the-pace winners in Europe, most notably Guido Migliozzi in France and Ockie Strydom in Singapore. The former was five back but inside the top 10, and those who find themselves five adrift here probably have too many players to pass.

That leaves a shortlist of 11 and while talented maiden Masahiro Kawamura is of course the other obvious contender from a share of third, my eye is drawn to Borja Virto, a volatile type who makes birdies for fun and shot a final-round 64 to climb almost 40 places on his latest start.

He was second at Galgorm Castle last year, a really good guide to this event, and at 66/1 is one to look at if you’re keen to take on the front four in the betting. The other name to consider for loose change is Pierre Pineau, six back and in need of a miracle, but a player with two final-round 63s to his name from his last six Sunday appearances.

Pineau also has a razor-sharp short-game to call upon so if his long-game were to click, it’s certainly possible that he sneaks into the first four or five by shooting the round of the day. However, the class, the experience and the potential is all at the very top of this leaderboard, and I doubt we’ll see a great deal of upheaval.

For those reading prior to Saturday’s third round at Sawgrass, it’s well worth a small double on MacIntyre and Scottie Scheffler, who has moved ominously into second place and is poised to return to the top of the world rankings.

Scheffler is going to take a heck of a lot of beating the way he’s hitting the ball, and there’s almost no recent winning form on this leaderboard. Collin Morikawa is the biggest threat ahead of Adam Svensson, who I suspect will hang tough for a good while yet, but I won’t be alone in thinking upwards of 2/1 for Scheffler to win rates good business from here.

Posted at 1450 GMT on 11/03/23

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