Jbe Kruger pumped his fist as the final putt dropped at the Avantha Masters in India Â after many close calls he had finally gotten the monkey off his back Â he had won his first European Tour event.
As he headed down the 18th the 25-year-old held a two-stroke lead over playing partner Marcel Siem, but Kruger overcame the nerves to claim the Â2-million tournament at DLF Golf and Country Club.
ÂIÂm very relieved to win for the first time,Â said Kruger. ÂIf you want to win you need to make putts on the final day and I did that today.Â
He caused a fair amount of worry when he bogeyed the 17th, which was his first bogey in 46 holes, and dropped to within two strokes of Siem. But the youngster was calm at the 18th and ended up with a two-footer for par, which he sank.
ÂItÂs a big relief now that IÂve won 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,Â said Kruger, ÂI 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. I like to know whatÂs going on and IÂm aware of the movements on the leaderboard.Â
The Bloemfontein local is yet to win in South Africa Â his two Sunshine Tour victories were in Zambia and Zimbabwe Â and the Indian win marks his third professional trophy outside of local borders.
He finished fourth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last year and learnt to deal with the travel between South Africa and the East, which clearly paid off in India. On the third day he shot a superb 66 to lead the field by one stroke as they headed into the final 18.
On the final day, Spaniard Jose Manuel Lara had a crack at the lead and headed out in 32. Kruger went bogey-free through the front stretch and saw off the SpaniardÂs charge with birdies at the fourth, sixth and eighth.
Siem had a sniff at victory when KrugerÂs second on 18 found trees to the left of the fairway, but the German put too much into the shot and it landed in a greenside bunker, relieving much pressure from Kruger.
It was his first win in 38 appearances on the European Tour and, aside from the cheque, has given Kruger something very special Â a winnerÂs confidence.