20 March 2021: Justin Harding will take a two shot lead into the final round of the 2021 Magical Kenya Open presented by Johnnie Walker after carding an impressive 64 on day three in Nairobi. Gaganjeet Bhullar is ten strokes back after posting 69 in the third round. At 6-under he has a share of the 39th place.
The South African has fond memories of Karen Country Club after a closing 66 two years ago handed him a tie for second and moved him into the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking, sealing him a debut appearance at the Masters Tournament.
That performance came a week after his win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and Harding will now go in search of a second European Tour victory at 16 under, two shots clear of Australian Scott Hend and American duo Kurt Kitayama and Johannes Veerman.
Veerman carded a course record 62 to put himself right in contention, while Kitayama registered a 66 and joint overnight leader Hend signed for a 68.
Scot Calum Hill was then at 13 under, two shots ahead of Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet.
Harding’s victory in Qatar just over two years ago was a fifth in nine months and four different countries, and in the following weeks he would go on to finish in the top 20 at Augusta National and at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
He has not quite hit those heights since but he knows what is required if he is to lift the trophy on Sunday.
“I’ll give it my best effort,” he said. “The golf course lends itself to a bunch of birdies. If you execute your golf shots and roll in a couple of putts you can certainly post a score.
“It’s just a matter of really taking advantage of the par fives and a couple of the driveable par fours and at the end of the day just being one shot better than the next guy.
“It’s just going to be a matter of executing plans and trying to get over the line.”
It’s just a matter of really taking advantage of the par fives and a couple of the driveable par fours and at the end of the day just being one shot better than the next guy
Harding started the day two shots off the lead but birdied the first and third, and when Kitayama made gains on the second and fifth the duo were in a tie with Hend at the top.
Another Harding birdie on the sixth handed him the solo lead but Hend eagled the par five and then added a birdie on the seventh to jump out into a two shot lead after starting his round with five pars.
Harding would not give up the chase, however, and he eagled the par four tenth with a wedge to join Hend before the 47-year-old made a birdie at the ninth to lead by one at the turn.
There was a tie at the top again as Harding birdied the 11th and a Hend bogey at the tenth dropped him back to 14 under alongside Kitayama, who had added birdies on the eighth, tenth and 11th.
A Harding birdie on the 12th gave him a two shot lead but he gave it straight back on the next to sit just one ahead of Kitayama and Veerman.
The 28-year-old matched the lowest round of his European Tour career with gains on the second, fourth, sixth, seventh, ninth, 11th, 12th and 16th, and got a fortunate bounce with his second on the 17th after finding the trees off the tee to set up another birdie.
Kitayama birdied the 15th to join the lead but dropped a shot on the next, and a Harding gain on the last meant the 35-year-old had a two shot advantage once more.
Hend had made it back to back bogeys on the 11th but he birdied the 17th to get back into a share of second.
Hill posted a 67, one shot more than Gonnet, with defending champion Guido Migliozzi, South African trio Dean Burmester, Garrick Higgo and Jayden Schaper, German Bernd Ritthammer, Finn Kalle Samooja and Scot Connor Syme all at ten under.