It may be early days into the 2012 season but newly-crowned Avantha Masters champion Jbe Kruger has declared his intention to win the prestigious Asian Tour Order of Merit crown.
The 25-year-old South African broke into the winner’s enclosure with a long-awaited victory at the DLF Golf and Country Club in India to shoot to the top of the Merit list with US$394,589.
Victory was especially sweet for Kruger as he has endured several agonising near misses on the Asian Tour, most notably in 2010 where he settled for three runner-up finishes.
“My main goal on the Asian Tour is to win the Order of Merit as I think this win is definitely going to help me achieve that. I also want to get as high as I can in the world rankings,” said Kruger, who rose 50 places up to 109th in the world following his success.
With the monkey off his back, the slight-built but supremely powerful Kruger is determined to ride on his rich vein of form and win more titles to cement his place among the game’s elite in Asia.
“It’s a big relief now that I’ve won but I think I needed all those second place finishes to be able to appreciate it. I’m in good form and I want to be up there against the best,” said Kruger, who was fourth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last season.
Australia’s Marcus Fraser has enjoyed a solid start to the year, following a T4 finish at the Avantha Masters, and is sitting in second place in the OOM, with earnings of US $109,380.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat moved up two places to third on the rankings and will start his title defence at this week’s SAIL-SBI Open, also in India, in high spirits following another top-10 finish over the weekend.
“I’m in good shape and playing well. I tend to play well in India and hopefully, I can successfully defend my title at the Delhi Golf Club,” said Kiradech, who lost in a play-off at the season-opening Zaykabar Myanmar Open.
Compatriot Prom Meesawat made the biggest move of the week when he surged 89 spots up to fourth, thanks to a tied-sixth finish at the Avantha Masters which was sanctioned with the European Tour and PGTI.
The ‘Big Dolphin’ as he is fondly known to his friends, is coming into the early season physically stronger and motivated because of a new training regime. “I’ve been going to the gym regularly and I’ve bulked up quite a bit. I also feel stronger, probably because of my muscles and I feel that my stamina is getting better,” said Prom.
“I’m looking forward to this season because I’ve such a wonderful start and I want it to continue,” added the burly Thai.
The Asian Tour will remain in India for the SAIL-SBI Open where the region’s best golfers will tee off for the US$300,000 event, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGTI, at the Delhi Golf Club.
Asian Tour Order of Merit – Top-20
Pos. Player Order of Merit (US$)
1. Jbe KRUGER (RSA) $394,589
2. Marcus FRASER (AUS) $109,380
3. Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) $67,863
4. Prom MEESAWAT (THA) $67,487
5. Mardan MAMAT (SIN) $56,962
6. Kieran PRATT (AUS) $53,468
7. Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) $37,571
8. Marcus BOTH (AUS) $36,750
9. Adam BLYTH (AUS) $34,875
10. Chapchai NIRAT (THA) $33,915
11. MO Joong-kyung (KOR) $33,510
12. SIDDIKUR (BAN) $31,406
13. Felipe AGUILAR (CHI) $29,546
14. Zaw MOE (MYN) $27,717
15. Scott HEND (AUS) $27,039
16. Anirban LAHIRI (IND) $26,127
17. Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) $21,282
18. Berry HENSON (USA) $20,775
19. Arnond VONGVANIJ (THA) $20,225
20. Ben FOX (USA) $20,088