Damaged 8-iron leaves Jbe’ 3 off pace in Malaysia

Damage to his eight-iron left Jbe’ Kruger in a pickle on 18 in round one of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia on Thursday, but he was still able to card five-under-par 66 for a share of seventh.

“I bent my eight-iron on the fourth hole and I had a flier lie, so I couldn’t use a nine-iron on 18. I couldn’t get there. I couldn’t hit a seven-iron. I needed an eight-iron,” Kruger told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

In the end he went with the seven-iron and the uncertainty led to him spoiling a bogey-free round at the $6.1-million PGA Tour event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour.

“I compensated a little, hit it in the bunker and didn’t hit a very good shot and missed the putt, and made six,” said the third-placed player on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

The double bogey on the par-four meant he signed for an opening round five-under-par 66 which left him three back of American leader Troy Matteson in the 48-man field.

“It’s a pity about the double, but it’s the first round, it’s not the last round. You’ve still got a lot of golf left,” said Kruger, who won the Asian and European Tour’s Avantha Masters in February.

“I think I can definitely go lower than I went today, but I can’t really hit a lot better than that,” the world number 181 added.

Matteson revelled in steamy conditions at the Mines Resort & Golf Club to lead by one stroke from countrymen Brian Harman, Robert Garrigus and Jeff Overton, who finished runner-up in the tournament last year.

In-form Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar, who has won twice on the Asian Tour in the past two months, was a further stroke back with American Tom Gillis while 14-time major champion Tiger Woods, Malaysia’s Danny Chia and Kruger were amongst those on 66.

Trevor Immelman, the only other South African in the field, was nine off the pace on 72.

Kruger will now play the second round with his idol Woods.

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