JbeÂ Kruger has two second-place finishes on the Asian Tour, but he edged closer towards his maiden title on Thursday as he took a three-stroke lead at the end of the first round of the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open.
He carded a seven-under-par 64 as he followed up yet another top-10 finish from last weekÂs Macau Open which lifted him to third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit with a start that indicates he should be in contention at the weekend.
JapanÂs Daisuke Maruyama and Kenichi Kuboya returned with matching 67s to take second place alongside KoreaÂs Bae Sang-moon and SK Ho at the $1.7-million event jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
He was impressive, even though it was his first appearance in Japan, and he eventually signed for six birdies, an eagle and a lone bogey at the Biwako Country Club.
Kruger has come close to winning on several occasions but it has been that maiden title which has often eluded him.
The South African knows that he has to keep his focus before he gets rewarded with a well deserved place in the winnerÂs circle.
ÂI probably have to do what IÂve been doing today which is to hit the greens and fairways and try to put less pressure on myself,Â said the 25-year-old.
The South African credited his putting for giving him a comfortable lead and hopes that his good form and mental state will eventually lead him to victory after coming so close on several occasions, finishing third, fifth, eighth and seventh in Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Macau respectively.
ÂThe round has been very satisfying. IÂve been playing well the last couple of weeks and the only thing is that IÂve not been doing is to get my putting going. But today I putted really well,Â said Kruger.
ÂAt the end of the day, itÂs going to come down to pressure on the final day and IÂll have to cope with that when it comes,Â added Kruger.
Chinese TaipeiÂs Chan Yih-shin continued his good run by signing for a 68 to take a share of sixth place with six players that include ThailandÂs Prom Meesawat.
Keith Horne and Peter Karmis opened with a one-over 73 each.
With reporting by the Asian Tour