Jbe Kruger fired a four-under 67 at the Portugal Masters on Thursday, giving him the perfect platform on which to consolidate for the rest of the tournament. Kruger started with a birdie, but cancelled it out two holes later with a disappointing bogey at the par-4 third hole. However, he was rock solid from that point onwards, making a further four birdies without any more blemishes.
It has been an interesting year for the man from Bloemfontein, as his global travels have produced mixed results. He began the year with a top-10 finish at the Joburg Open, and carried that good form across to India, where he won the Avantha Masters, a co-sanctioned event between the Asian and European Tours. Another good finish at the Maybank Malaysian Open put him in the pound seat on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, while he remained consistent on the European Tour throughout the first half of the year.
However, a noticeable slump in form has seen him manage to make just three cuts on the Asian and European Tours since June, and he has relinquished his lead on the Asian Tour Order of Merit to Marcus Fraser. His position of 39th in the Race to Dubai is also lower than he would have liked after such a promising start to the year.
But this weekÂs Portugal Masters could be just the turning point Kruger needs to turn a good year into a great year. Although this is his first time playing the par-71 Oceanico Victoria Course, his distance off the tee and consistency in greens in regulation (for which he ranks 62nd and 53rd on the European Tour respectively) seem to be a good fit, and his first round has put him in a great position to secure a strong finish in Vilamoura.
And a win or top-five finish here could mean that Kruger may yet have a say in the Race to Dubai, and would certainly be the ideal confidence booster to help him wrap up the Asian Tour Order of Merit.