Jbe’ has the drive to make breakthrough this week

He’s currently 15th on the 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with a best finish of a share of eighth in the Africa Open, and Jbe’ Kruger’s season has yet to burst into life in the way in which his 2010 season promised.

He had three second-place finishes – near-misses all – on the last year’s Asian Tour, and they were close-run affairs, so the sense was a breakthrough was imminent.

He’s had two top 20s in three starts on the Asian Tour this year, but missed the cut in the Maybank Malaysian Open, so when he tees it up in the European Tour’s Ballantine’s Championship at Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon, South Korea, he has a chance to make the breakthrough in exalted company.

World number one Lee Westwood will be there, as will be South Africa’s former world number one, Ernie Els.

And Kruger is becoming increasingly at home in Asia’s conditions, bringing a set of impressive statistics into the tournament: He’s ninth on the tour in driving distance at 293 yards, despite his jockey-like stature.

He’s also fourth on the tour in greens in regulation, which means he’s giving himself plenty of birdie opportunities.

His putting average, however, reveals where he can improve: His 32.1 putts per round leave him languishing in 156th place on the tour, and even a minuscule improvement in that will see him climb the leaderboard.

Putting is Els’ problem right now, too, and he even turned to a belly putter in last week’s Heritage on the US PGA Tour in an attempt to rectify what used to be one of the most effective parts of his game.

Peter Karmis – who was one of the players to relegate Kruger to one of his second-place finishes when he won the Handa Singapore Classic last year – is one of two other South Africans in the field.

Keith Horne, who had a good week that he was just unable to close out last week in the Volvo China Open, is the other.

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