Kruger jumps in as Whiteford slips up

Jbe Kruger, seeking his first European Tour title, is one shot clear heading into the final round of the Avantha Masters.

South Africa’s Jbe Kruger, seeking his first European Tour title, will take a one shot lead into the final round of the Avantha Masters in India.

But Sunday at New Delhi’s DLF Golf & Country Club won’t be a cake walk for Kruger, who took his 54-hole total to an 11-under 205 with a sparkling 6-under 66 .

That’s because the leaderboard behind him is packed with a host of hungry rivals with only three shots separating the top 15 players, one of them being joint first and second round leader Peter Whiteford of Scotland who slipped back into a three-way tie for second place at 10-under with German Marcel Siem (68) and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste (69) after shooting a rather tame level-par 72.

The Scot, also seeking his maiden Tour win, seemed to be sitting firmly in the driving seat for much of the round until a double bogey at the 17th hole cost him the outright lead.

Gonnet started badly, but did well to recover from four bogeys on his first 12 holes with a run of five birdies on the last six.

Kruger carded two golden eagles, the first at the par five sixth where he holed a 20 foot putt, the second at the driveable 15th where he holed a putt from off the green after his five wood finished short of the putting surface.

Allied with birdies at the fourth and 18th holes, the former amateur star now has a good opportunity to collect his maiden European Tour title on Sunday.

“I’m going to try to play how I played today,” he told the media afterwards.

“If it’s meant to be my week, it’ll be mine, so I don’t want to think too far ahead just yet.

“The putts will need to go in and I think that’s what will define the winner. I’ve reading the greens a little better after struggling with them during the week.

“My putting has been good when I see the line, I’m improving and I’m a lot more experienced now and I think that will give me the edge.”

Asked about his eagles, Kruger said: “I got a little bit lucky on the sixth. I used a six iron and it landed about 20 feet away, and I managed to sink it. That was the longest putt I made all day.

“On the 15th, I just drove it a little short of the green and I made a pretty simple putt from about 12 metres. I managed to judge it to perfection.

Whiteford led by three when he birdied the first from 15 feet, but he needed four shots to find the green at the 486 yard fifth, then missed his bogey putt after chipping to three feet.

At that stage the 31 year old was locked in a battle with compatriot Marc Warren, and birdies at the sixth and ninth looked to have restored his momentum.

But two dropped shots followed by three birdies at the next six holes saw him with a comfortable lead – until the former Challenge Tour star, found water with his approach to the 17th and a double bogey resulted

“I’m raging, That let everyone back in” Whiteford said. “If I’d managed a three or four under, I would have had a good lead,.

“It could’ve been a two or three horse race, but now everyone’s in it.

“It was disappointing on the 17th because my tee shot landed in a divot and I came up short with a nine iron. I had enough birdies to keep positive, but overall it’s disappointing.”

Siem’s nightmare double bogey, double bogey start was followed by seven birdies, two bogeys and an eagle at the last after a magnificent four iron approach.

“It was a crazy day,” declared the 31 year old German, who finished fourth in Dubai last week.

“The first hole I hit it left and tried to hit my second shot over the trees, but it hit a trunk and went into the trap on the 18th.

“It was plugged and I ended up taking double bogey. Then the next hole I hit another tree, didn’t get on in three and had a chip and two-putt for another double.

“So all of a sudden I was four over, but luckily I kept my head and came back with eight birdies and an eagle. It was pretty cool at the end today.”

José Manuel Lara matched the best-of-the-week 64 to leap 38 places into a tie for fifth on nine under, alongside Warren (68), Italy’s Andrea Pavan (67), Australian Marcus Fraser (69), former Ryder Cup Vice Captain Paul McGinley and Thai Prom Meesawat, who chipped in at the last for a 71.

(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):
205 Jbe Kruger (RSA) 70 69 66
206 Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (Fra) 68 69 69, Peter Whiteford 66 68 72, Marcel Siem (Ger) 69 69 68
207 Prom Meesawat (Tha) 72 64 71, Marc Warren 72 67 68, Andrea Pavan (Ita) 69 71 67, Paul McGinley 70 69 68, Marcus Fraser (Aus) 69 69 69, Jose Manuel Lara (Spa) 74 69 64