Jbe Kruger might not have carded Keegan BradleyÂs opening 65, but battled with golfÂs best at the WGC-HSBC Champions event at Shanghai International Golf Club on Thursday.
Kruger shot a decent 70 to close the first round in a share of 20th, and looked solid amongst a glittering field, which contains all four current major champions.
Bradley raced to seven-under – he dropped no shots, carded five birdies and topped off his flawless round with an eagle at the 18th to take a two-stroke lead.
Five top-10 finishes in 13 starts have taken Kruger to fifth place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, which earned him a place at this week’s WGC event.
His 28 top-20 finishes on the Sunshine Tour include two victories, yet Kruger’s best result in Asia came at the ICTSI Philippine Open, where he finished third.
The 25-year-old has been uninhibited by the strong field in this week and finished the first round at two-under-par.
He opened the day with a pair of birdies at the second and third, but bogeyed the seventh to turn at one-under.
Kruger kicked off the back stretch with a birdie at the par-four 10th and followed it with a birdie at the par-five 14th for a move to three-under.
The 1.66-metre-tall professional disappointed himself with a late bogey, which came at the par-five 18th and took him back to a share of 20th.
Fellow countryman Rory Sabbatini made his way round in 69 and his three-under-par card earned him a share of ninth.
Alongside Kruger is Charl Schwartzel, who also carded an opening 70, while Louis Oosthuizen and Keith Horne took an early share of 30th at one-under.
Ernie Els and Thomas Aiken struggled in Asia and carded three-over and four-over respectively.
Kruger has shown that he can keep up, and a cool head through the next few days could see the youngster battle with the best come Sunday.