The excitement for the Barclays Kenya Open, the third event of the 2012 Challenge Tour season, is mounting, and as the players begin their journey to Nairobi, europeantour.com picks out five to follow at Muthaiga Golf Club.
One of the brightest propspects on the Challenge Tour, 20 year old Lloyd has form at Muthaiga Golf Club, having earmarked it as the scene of his breakthrough in his rookie season last year.
In just his second Challenge Tour appearance, the Bristol man soared to a six under par round of 65 on the first day and, while he could not build on that over the course of the next three days, he certainly did over the course of the season as he finished 28th in the Rankings.
Lloyd believes this year will be when he makes the step up to The European Tour and he has certainly shown some positive signs so far, finishing eighth in the season-opening Gujarat Kensville Challenge before a tied runner-up finish at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic.
“I’m still craving that first win,” said Lloyd. “I've had two good finishes now so hopefully I can carry that on in Kenya. I finished second in my fourth event in Italy last year too so I would like to finally get that win this season.”
Determined and in good form, Lloyd is certainly a good bet for another good finish in Africa.
The South African finished just two shots behind winner and compatriot Michiel Bothma as the runner-up at last year’s Barclays Kenya Open, giving him a superb start to a 2011 Challenge Tour season in which he finished 42nd in the Rankings.
Ferreira, 24, is keen to follow his close friend and countryman Branden Grace, with whom he travelled and roomed last year, on to The European Tour and a good start on a course he knows well would make that job a whole lot easier.
“I'm going to try and finish top 20 this year and get a European Tour card,” he said after his tied 40th finish at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge in January. “I know I need to work hard this season. As Branden has proved, it takes just one good week to get you on track so I need to work hard to try and catch up with him.
“I’m going to try out a few different putters before I head to Kenya. I’m hitting the ball well. If I get a good putting week I should be up there.”
Two years ago Hartø burst onto the Challenge Tour scene by winning the ECCO Tour Championship as an amateur, then added another title before the year was out, at the Roma Golf Open presented by REZZA. He qualified for The European Tour via the Qualifying School, but it all proved too much too soon for the Dane in 2011, and he finds himself back on the Challenge Tour for 2012.
However, he has made his intentions clear with a fine start to the campaign, finishing third in the Gujurat Kensville Challenge and tenth in the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic.
He also had a 59 in a practice round at the Qualifying School in December, but while he did not manage to produce that sort of score when it counted, it shows he is capable of some scintillating golf when he is on his game.
It is difficult to ignore the defending champion, who won at Muthaiga so impressively last year when he edged out compatriot Ferreira by two shots. The Pretoria man believes the key to his success was his ability to read the greens, so if he putts like he did 12 months ago, he has a great chance to make it two in a row.
"The course suits me," he said. "I like hitting wedges to greens and the greens are pretty receptive and I think it’s a putting course. It’s not easy making putts around there but somehow I just read the greens very well and I think that’s why it suits me because once you read the greens and make a lot of putts, the ball-striking doesn’t have to be all that great to make a good score."
The 39 year old had a tied third finish at the Joburg Open on The European Tour in January, so he will be full of confidence, and he also admits to feeling more comfortable when playing in Africa.
The Englishman made quite an impression on his return to action in 2012, taking the lead into the final round of the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic before finishing fourth on his Challenge Tour debut.
After taking a winter-long break from the game, 29 year old Dougherty showed good composure throughout the week and, perhaps more importantly, rediscovered his enjoyment for the game which had been missing for the majority of last season.
If he can pick up where he left off when he arrives in Nairobi, he will have an excellent chance of victory.