Mutahi Kibugu fought his way through to the money-spinning weekend rounds after carding level par 71 today at Muthaiga Golf Club in the second round of the Magical Kenya Open 2023 as Spaniard Nacho Elvira deposed overnight leaders after firing six under par 65.
After firing a superb three under 68 yesterday, Kibugu endured a slow start as he bogeyed the tough-playing hole number one thanks to an unlucky approach shot that saw him find the right-side bunker. A birdie on number three after getting the ball to five feet near the cup followed by another tap-in birdie on the par-5 number four calmed the home player’s nerves. He would however drop two shots on number six and eight after difficulties off the tee but another timely birdie on number nine for level par 36 on the front nine set him up nicely for the back nine.
Kibugu missed a birdie opportunity on the easy-playing par-5 number 10 when his second shot flew past the green but carefully navigated the tough stretch between number 11 and 14 before sinking a priceless 15-footer birdie at the 15th. A double bogey on the par-3 number 16 threatened to rain on the youthful pro’s parade but he made a good comeback with a birdie on number 18 to swagger in to the weekend rounds in a respectable position T36.
“It feels amazing especially to hole that putt on the last, in front of my family, friends, everyone. I’m still excited. Now I’ve calmed down a bit. I had a bit of pressure on the last two holes, but I knew if I kept in my game, I could probably get one birdie and I would be alright. The birdie on 18 was amazing. I’ll be watching that for 50 years. That’s what dreams are made of, “said Kibugu.
Sadly, Kibugu will be on his own in the weekend rounds after his professional and amateur compatriots bid the tournament a premature bye, failing to beat the -1 cutline. It was heartbreaking for veteran Dismas Indiza who fought gallantly to the last hole only to miss the cut narrowly after signing off with two over 73 today. The same fate befell Greg Snow whose opening level par 71 round had given him a good chance of aiming fire at the leaders. Snow however bowed out on +3 a shot behind hard fighting amateur Njoroge Kibugu who failed to repeat last year heroics after posting another one over 71 today. Other fancied players who missed the cut include past winners Ashun Wu and Lorenzo Gagli.
Despite staring the day three shots behind, Elvira fought his way into contention with two birdies on the front nine. He stepped on the gas on the back nine where he picked three birdies and an eagle to enhance his chances of getting a second win on the DP Tour. The Spaniard has only dropped one shot in the two rounds at Muthaiga.
He will start tomorrow’s round with a stroke advantage over the trio of Nick Bachen, Jayden Schaper and Ryo Hisatsune who are jointly in second on -9. Day one co-leaders John Catlin and Dylan Mostert dropped to position T5 and T14 respectively.