Jbe’ Kruger wore two black ribbons as a gesture of respect on Friday in the Hong Kong Open after he heard that former president Nelson Mandela had died, and he completed the closing nine in just 30 shots to grab the halfway lead.
As the world mourned the loss of Mandela, it was fitting that a South African should lead and Kruger’s 66 was enough to ensure he held a one-shot advantage on seven-under-par.
There was little sign of what was to come when the 27-year-old turned in a two-over-par 36, but six birdies in seven holes from the 11th propelled Kruger to the top of the leaderboard, with Stuart Manley of Wales his nearest challenger.
“Our country lost a real-life hero,” former Avantha Masters winner Kruger said of Mandela’s death on Thursday night.
“I played well, I probably swung it the best I’ve swung it in a long time.
“I’m excited and I’m playing better for a change. It’s fun to play relaxed golf for a change and see what unfolds.”
Kruger’s scoring burst started with an eight-foot putt at the 11th, before converting from 25 feet at the next and completing a hat-trick of gains with a simple putt at the par-five 13th.
A 20-footer at the 14th kept the run going and, after a par at the 15th, an approach to five feet at the 16th and six feet at the next highlighted some wonderful iron play.
Shiv Kapur, Alex Cejka and Wade Ormsby were in a share of third a further shot back on five-under-par.
With reporting from europeantour.com