That gave him a two-stroke edge over amateur Kyle McClatchie, with England’s David Ashley and South Africa’s Steven Ferreira a further shot back on six-under-par 66.
“I’ve struggled for a while with putting,” said Kruger. “I couldn’t make much for the last little while, but today I seemed to make almost everything. I just saw the lines better, and obviously the roll was a bit better. I worked a lot on that. I was a little bit jerky every now and then, and I jabbed it a bit. I’ve worked on smoothing it out and it looks like it’s working.”
He started his round with two birdies in succession, and made two more ahead of the turn. But it was on the back nine that the birdies started to flow, as he picked up shots on 10, 12, 13, 14 and 17.
“I hit the ball really well too,” he said. “Well, the irons were really good. I hit a few really close.”
Behind him, McClatchie was not flawless, but nearly as impressive as Kruger. “I started off quite slow,” said McClatchie. “I was one-over through five, but I hit the ball really well and I knew if I kept on doing what I was doing I could make some putts on the back nine. I finished nice and strong with three birdies in a row and that was a nice finish to the round.”
The 19-year-old who plays out of Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate is inside the top 20 in the South African Golf Association rankings, and is playing the tournament on an invitation.
“I’m just out here to have fun, really,” he said. “I don’t have any high expectations about what is going on and I’m just trying to enjoy myself. It’s my first time playing a Big Easy event, so I’m just trying to have fun and enjoy the moment as much as I can.”
Further back, Ashley got a fast start with birdies on two and three, but he dropped a shot on four. After that, he made an eagle on eight and picked up three more birdies on the homeward nine. Ferreira started on the 10th and birdied it, and a dropped shot on 14 together with two more birdies saw him turn in 34. He was flawless on his homeward nine, making four birdies.
McClatchie won’t be trying to do much differently in the final round tomorrow: “I’ll try stick to the same kind of game plan,” he said. “There will obviously be a bit more nerves than today, but I’m sure if we just try and keep to the same basic principles and try keep on doing what we’re doing it’ll be alright.”
He’ll be up against Kruger who will be looking to do better in his final round than he has recently. “I’ve just struggled with the last rounds recently,” he said. “I haven’t been able to get the putter going, so I’m going to work on that again and see if I can do as well as I did today.”