11th August 2017 | Sunshine Tour
Kruger wins first title on SA soil
Jbe’ Kruger hit a nine-iron approach shot on 18 from 162 meters to within two feet of the flag to make birdie and win the Sun Carnival City Challenge by a single shot at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Friday.
It looked like the tournament would be decided through a play-off when Kruger – who was level with Neil Schietekat and JJ Senekal on 10-under – made par on 17. However, after placing his tee shot in the middle of the fairway on 18, he fired in his nine-iron to within close range and needed a simple tap-in to claim victory on his home course.
In a final round where things became tight very early on at the top, and where only one shot separated the leader from the chasing top 10 players, Kruger shot two-under-par 70 to total 11-under-par 205 to win his fourth Sunshine Tour event. The win is also his maiden victory on home soil as he won all three previous titles outside South Africa.
“On the last hole, I knew I had to make the birdie,” he said of that approach shot on 18, “I hit my best shot of the day, it came out perfectly. The wind just drifted it back a little bit. I had a look at that flag yesterday and I saw it was on a downslope, so you have to almost try and pitch it long.”
He had to hold his composure because, on 10-under par, Schietekat and Senekal were poised to accompany him to the play-off hole if he had dropped that shot. “I knew I could always win,” said Kruger, “I mean I know this course backwards.” It had been three years since Kruger won a Sunshine Tour event when he clinched the Golden Pilsner Zimbabwe Open in 2014, but a series of strong performances have delivered him a win on his home course, in his home country.
The duo of Schietekat and Senekal put up a solid fight in the final round, having come from three shots behind the leader in round two, to share the second spot on the last day. Veteran Hennie Otto, the resurgent Jake Roos and Callum Mowat along with Anthony Michael share fourth on nine-under-par.
Jean Hugo, outgoing champion Ruan de Smidt and Ockie Strydom make up the top-10 on eight-under-par 208.