Kruger revels in Alfred Dunhill Championship heat

Jbe’ Kruger has sweated often enough on the Asian Tour this year, so it was easier for him than most as he cruised to eight-under-par 64 on Thursday and a share of the early first round lead of the €1-million Alfred Dunhill Championship.

As temperatures soared to 41 degrees Celsius, he started hot with three birdies in his opening four holes – after chipping in to save par on the first – and then went eagle-birdie-birdie around the turn on the 6,665-metre Leopard Creek layout.

His only blemish came with a bogey on the 16th after he started out the day on the 10th, but then he negotiated his way home without further difficulty after the turn, picking up two final birdies on six and eight.

He shared the early clubhouse lead with England’s Seve Benson, as the man who is named after Seve Ballesteros was flawless with eight birdies despite having to stop and gulp for air towards the end of his round in the stifling heat.

“The heat in Asia taught me to play a different type of golf, to grind at it when it’s not going well,” said Kruger. “It’s different – you sweat and it gets slippery. But I’m used to this type of weather from my last few months, so it suits me.”

Kruger, currently fourth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, has yet to win outside the Sunshine Tour, but he’s been knocking on the door in Asia with three second-place finishes in 2010 and six top-10s this year.

He has been patient in seeking that elusive win. “I think the struggle helps to build me,” he said. “It makes me calmer when things go wrong. To keep trying to win is just inside the head, really. One hole at a time, that’s how I play my golf.”

He and Benson led by two strokes from Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Scots George Murray and Alan McLean.

Gonnet had an extraordinary flourish to finish his round: he went eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie from the 15th to the 18th to race from one-under for his round – respectable but not great – to a place in contention.

Lee Slattery of England and South Africa’s Josh Cunliffe shared sixth on five-under, while big hitting South African Merrick Bremner was on four-under.

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