PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal – A solid ball-striking day in the relentless wind saw Jbe’ Kruger shoot a two-under-par 68 as he established a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf KwaZulu-Natal event at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club on Friday.
The well-travelled Kruger, who in July won the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational Sega Sammy Cup in Japan, began his first tournament on the Sunshine Tour this season in style as he birdied the par-four first hole.
Back-to-back birdies on the fourth and fifth holes were sandwiched by three-putt bogeys on the par-five third and par-three sixth holes. Kruger collected two more birdies on the back nine, on the par-five 12th and the par-three 17th, but did drop a shot on the par-five 16th.
But the 37-year-old was more than satisfied with his round on a tough day at the Wild Coast Sun, hitting 16 greens in regulation.
“To make an under-par score with the wind the way it was and the tough greens means I could not have played badly. And if I keep hitting the ball like I did today I will be very happy.
“Obviously it helps that I was able to get the ball on the green in regulation most of the time, especially in the wind. I made a couple of pretty long putts and I was actually pleased to only have two three-putts given the wind and the greens.
“I think I’ve only played once before here when it was more windy and I haven’t really felt in form. I’ve been struggling the last few weeks. My golf has been very average so I’m very pleased to start so well out of the blocks,” Kruger said.
Luke Brown also did well in his tussle with the daunting Wild Coast Sun layout, shooting a 69 to share second place with Hennie O’Kennedy and Ruan de Smidt.
Brown bogeyed the second hole, but then birdies on the fourth, seventh and ninth holes saw him make his move. He made a second bogey on the par-five 12th, but thereafter there was an armistice between the Johannesburg golfer and the seaside course, as he parred his way through to the close.
O’Kennedy was level-par through the front nine with two bogeys and two birdies, and he then birdied the par-five 12th to get into red numbers.
De Smidt mixed five birdies with four bogeys and was alone in the lead on three-under before dropping shots on the 15th and 17th holes.