20 February 2012
Jbe Kruger lifted his maiden European Tour title when he clinched the Avantha Masters in New Delhi, India on Sunday. It was the sixth win by a South African in the past 10 European Tour tournaments.
“I’m very relieved to win for the first time,” said Kruger, adding that what he had learned from his victory was, “if you want to win, you need to make putts on the final day.”
Kruger’s previous best result in a European Tour event was a third place finish in the 2010 Africa Open at the East London Golf Club.
‘A big relief’
“It’s a big relief now that I’ve won,” he said, “but I think I needed all those second-placed finishes to be able to appreciate it. There was no pressure even when I made my only bogey of the day on the 17th.
“I felt that victory was inevitable when I got to the 14th hole. I knew that I had a good chance as I had a comfortable three-shot cushion then.”
Kruger carried a one-shot lead into the final round, on 11-under-par 205 after an excellent six-under 66 in the third round.
It was tight just behind him, with Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Marcel Siem on 206, followed by Marcus Fraser, Jose Manuel Lara, Paul McGinley, Prom Meesawat, andrea Pavan, and Marc Warren all on 207, only two shots off the pace.
Only eight players, however, Kruger included, managed sub-70 scores over the last 18 holes as the South African put together a round that included four birdies and the lone dropped shot on the 17th hole.
It was his ability to avoid drops that played a big role in his victory. He dropped only three shots all tournament, but more than made up for that with three eagles, including two in the third round.
Incredibly, Kruger has yet to taste victory in South Africa. He has twice won on the Sunshine Tour, but those wins came in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Race to Dubai
The €300 000 winner’s cheque (approximately R3.06-million) lifted Kruger to fourth place in the Race to Dubai standings, behind fellow South African Branden Grace, who won the Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions in successive weeks earlier in the season, Robert Rock, and Paul Lawrie.
Victory also guaranteed him European Tour exemption until the end of the 2014 season and raised him 50 places from 159th to 109th in the official world golf rankings.
Spain’s Jorge Campillo and Marcel Siem of Germany tied for second, two shots behind Kruger on 276, while Australia’s Marcus Fraser shared fourth with Jose Manual Lara of Spain on 277.
Lower down the leaderboard, South Africa’s Richard Sterne tied for 23rd on four-under-par 284 after a steady tournament, with rounds of 71, 70, 71, and 72.
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