Jbe Kruger (Photo by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour)

South Africa’s Jbe Kruger finally shed his perennial bridesmaid tag when he closed with a final round three-under-par 69 to win the Avantha Masters on Sunday.

Kruger, who had come close on many occasions, especially in 2010, where he had to settle for the runner-up spot three times, was clearly relieved when he lifted his maiden Asian Tour title with a winning total of 14-under-par 274 at the DLF Golf and Country Club.

Spain’s Jorge Campillo signed off with a 67 to take a share of second place with Germany’s Marcel Siem on 276 while Australia’s Marcus Fraser and Spain’s Manuel Jose Lara closed with matching 277s for a share of fourth place at the Avantha Masters, which is richest tournament staged in India, thanks to its €1.8 million prize fund.

Thailand’s Prom Meesawat emerged as the leading Asian after he signed for a 71 to take a share of sixth place with three other players while compatriot Kiradech Aphibarnrat closed with a 68 to finish in tied-10th at the Avantha Masters, which is tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and PGTI.

Kruger, who made his debut on the Asian Tour in 2009, was always in control from the opening tee.

Despite carding a lone bogey on the par-four 17th, the South African knew that it was his title to lose and was clearly elated when he sunk his winning par putt on the closing 18th hole.

“It’s a big relief now that I’ve won but I think I needed all those second –placed finishes to be able to appreciate this. There was no pressure even when I made my only bogey of the day on the 17th,” said Kruger.

“I knew victory was always a possibility from my first shot. Then I felt that victory was inevitable when I got to the 14th hole,” added Kruger who picked up the winner’s prize cheque worth €300,000 and moved to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit,

After a sputtering start where he opened with two bogeys, Prom recovered with a birdie on the third to turn in 37. He added two more birdies on the 12th and 17th holes to reach home in 71.

“It has been a good week for me and I’m happy with the way things have been going for me. I’ve been striking the ball really well all week and my putting has been good,” said Prom.

Prom, who credits his regular visits to the gym for giving him the physical edge, is upbeat of his season ahead and believes another win could be within sight.

“It has been a good start to the season and I want to keep the momentum going. If I continue playing like this, I believe another win is possible,” said Prom whose last victory came in Korea in 2006.

Kiradech knew it would take a superlative effort to contend for his second Asian Tour win, having started the round six shots back of Kruger. However, after two birdies in his opening three holes, he thought that he could still surmount a late charge.

“I was playing really well especially in my first three holes. It was then when I thought that I would have the chance to go for the title if I continued playing that way,” said Kiradech.

A bogey on the fifth hole set him back by one but Kiradech continued to mark his card with another birdie on the ninth to turn in 34.

The Thai looked set to storm home after posting four birdies in six holes after the turn. However, two successive bogeys on the 16 and 17 holes put paid to any hopes of a miraculous comeback.

“I was still doing well all the way until the 15th but after that it all went wrong. I made double bogey on the 16th and 17th and I think that left me with no chance,” said Kiradech.

Although he missed out on a grandstand finish, Kiradech is happy that he is heading into his title defence for next week’s SAIL-SBI Open in high spirits.

“I’m putting well and I feel that I’m beginning to play my best golf. I’m in good shape now and I hope that this will continue,” said Kiradech.

Leading scores after round 4 of the AVANTHA MASTERS 2012 being played at the par 72, 7156 Yards DLF GCC course:
274 – Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 70-69-66-69.
276 – Jorge CAMPILLO (ESP) 72-71-66-67, Marcel SIEM (GER) 69-69-68-70.
277 – Marcus FRASER (AUS) 69-69-69-70, Jose Manuel LARA (ESP) 74-69-64-70.
278 – Thorbjorn OLESEN (DEN) 71-67-70-70, Tano GOYA (ARG) 74-70-64-70, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 72-64-71-71, Jean-Baptiste GONNET (FRA) 68-69-69-72.
279 – Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 68-69-74-68, Ricardo SANTOS (POR) 73-69-69-68, Alejandro CANIZARES (ESP) 66-73-69-71, Rhys DAVIES (WAL) 70-69-69-71.

Selected scores:
286 – LIANG Wen-chong (CHN) 72-72-66-76.
287 – Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 68-70-73-76



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