22 September 2019: Jbe Kruger makes up for his diminutive frame with the heart of a warrior. The South African spent his formative years lugging a tractor wheel up and down a hill to build strength and stamina. It took all of those reserves for him to finally moist his soul with the scent of victory, ending a tortuous seven-year wait for silverware. Kruger shot a sensational 65 on Sunday to clinch a two-stroke victory over Chan Kim.
Kruger finished the week at 15-under 269. Viraj Madappa shot 70, built on a return stretch that needed just 33 strokes. He finished in T12. Rahil Gangjee went one better with a 69 to finish in T18.
The former Avantha Masters (2012) winner scripted a memorable run in Korea, going bogey-free over the weekend at the Bear’s Best Cheongna Golf Club. Kruger started the day two strokes adrift of Scott Vincent, but he picked up birdies at 2, 7 and 8 to stake a claim.
“It all changed on the seventh hole when I made my second birdie and I could feel the momentum then,” said Kruger. “It was in the Lord’s plan whether I would win again today. But as for me, I started to feel good and after the 11th hole, I had a good feeling it was my time again.”
“I would say what went right today was probably my putting. I obviously didn’t hit it as well as I could have but my chipping and my putting saved me multiple times and that’s why I didn’t make bogeys. I’m a professional and this is what I do for a living, so I will probably go where the money is, go there and play well. I have been a big fan of playing in Japan, but you can’t really get into that Tour if you haven’t gone to Q school. But now, things have changed.”
“This course is a Jack Nicklaus design golf course. It’s the same as my own course, so the first time I came here, it literally looks identical. It has the same lines, the same kind of grass,” he added. “Everything is exactly the same and it almost feels like a home away from home. So, you know I’ve heard someone say “horses for courses” and that’s the truth because you generally play well at the same courses all year long. ”
Birdies at 15 & 16 helped Kruger secure a clear margin and he coasted home to collect a long-sought victory. Success for Kruger meant that Chan Kim’s hopes for a victory at home were dashed. Despite a brilliant 65 in the final round, the Korean- American settled for second place.
“Yeah, I played really solid and gave a good fight today. Obviously, you know, we were expecting some bad weather but it held up pretty well,” said Kim. “It was pretty windy but it was definitely scorable conditions. It’s quite a bitter pill to swallow after finishing so close. I finished second and third quite a bit this year, so I’m just still waiting for that first win of the season.”
Asian Tour Notes
Did you know?
- With this win, Jbe Kruger secures a two-year exemption on the Asian Tour after being ranked 95th on the Order of Merit the previous week.
- The South African did not make a bogey in his last 37 holes of the tournament, going back to the 17th hole on Friday.
- He had a Driving Distance average of 286 yards, Driving accuracy of 67.86%, Greens in Regulation (GIR) of 76.39 and Putts per GIR of 1.69.
- Kruger last won on the Asian Tour in the 2012 Avantha Masters in India, a tournament that was co-sanctioned by the European Tour.
- Hailing from Northern Cape province in South Africa, he has also recorded four career wins on the Sunshine Tour. The latest title coming at the Sun Carnival City Challenge in 2017.
- The 33-year-old got his nickname Jbe from the initials in his full name, James Barry Kruger.
- Chan Kim is a former member of the Asian Tour. He topped the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2013.
- He finished third on the JGTO money list in 2017, thanks to three wins.
- Kim came in second at the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open on the Japan Golf Tour in July where he earned his spot to The Open.
- He is currently leading the driving distance stats category (320.34) on the JGTO.
- Scott Vincent, the only Zimbabwean member on Tour, has never finished outside the top-three in his last four outings at the Shinhan Donghae Open.
- He finished tied-second in 2016, tied-third in 2017, second last year and third this week.
- Vincent claimed his first international win at the Landic Challenge 7 held on the Japan Challenge Tour in June.
- He has not missed a single cut in eight starts so far this season.
- Vincent was crowned the Asian Tour Rookie of the Year in 2016 after ending his season in 28th place on the Order of Merit.
Leading Scores after round 4 of the The 35th Shinhan Donghae Open being played at the par 71, 7238 Yards Bear’s Best Cheongna GC course (am – denotes amateur):
269 – Jbe Kruger (RSA) 69-67-68-65.
271 – Chan Kim (USA) 66-71-69-65.
273 – Scott Vincent (ZIM) 67-67-68-71.
274 – Sung Kang (KOR) 69-70-65-70.
275 – Rikuya Hoshino (JPN) 74-67-66-68.
276 – Shugo Imahira (JPN) 66-70-68-72.
277 – Jeongwoo Ham (KOR) 68-69-71-69, Matthew Griffin (AUS) 70-72-65-70.
278 – Shaun Norris (RSA) 74-69-67-68, Sanghee Lee (KOR) 69-73-66-70, Hyungjoon Lee (KOR) 70-66-70-72.