The 27-year-old hasn’t led by five shots before and the final round on Friday was an exciting prospect for him.
“I haven’t had this kind of lead before, so it’s new territory for me. I’m looking forward to it and we’ll see how I go tomorrow!” he said.
Thursday began as a breathless, sunny day on the Wild Coast, but the breeze picked up in the afternoon. De Jager teed off at 11.20am and had to knuckle down on his way to a two-under-par second round.
“On the front I could be quite aggressive, but on the back I played safe and chose the best side of the flag. In this wind it’s tough to hit it close and sometimes you get stuck with a long putt. Luckily, I’ve had two good days with the putter and saved myself a lot,” he said.
On day one the Centurion local shot an unparalleled 63 at the par-70 course. He went on to shoot 68 on Thursday and secured an impressive leading margin ahead of a cut to the top 40 players and those tied on the number.
The wind was forecast to blow during the final round on Friday and De Jager, who won the 2009 Suncoast Classic, was prepared to take it one step at a time.
“I’m glad to still be at the top of the leaderboard and I’ll get an idea tomorrow on what my thoughts will be. That will dictate how I approach the round, but I’m feeling good and keeping my mind off the things that usually tense you up,” he said.
Morning starter Jaco Ahlers applied the pressure with a Thursday 65 that made him the early clubhouse leader on four-under-par. He included a run of three consecutive birdies from the second to the fourth in his five-under-par second round and kept sight of the lead.
De Jager wanted to stay well ahead of his rivals and achieved exactly that on Thursday with a 33-stroke front nine. He then cracked a final birdie at par-three 17th with an approach that stopped six feet above the cup. The downhill putt never looked like it would miss and he then finished the round with a regulation par at the 18th.
Stuart Smith played his way into the R600,000 tournament through qualifying, which made his share of second truly impressive. The Botswana local carded 69 on Thursday to join Ahlers in the runner-up position on a four-under-par total. Danie van Tonder and 2011 Nashua Masters winner Shaun Norris shared fourth on two-under.