Jbe Kruger (Getty Images)
Jbe Kruger overcame a late wobble to claim his first European Tour victory at the Avantha Masters in New Delhi.
The 25 year old South African looked to be coasting towards the title when, having shaken off the challenge of Spain’s José Manuel Lara, he stood on the 17th tee with a three shot lead.
However, he overcooked his approach and failed to get up and down, the resulting bogey his first for 46 holes.
A wayward drive at the last then struck a camera, and his second went left in to trees, but faced with a daunting third over the water Kruger displayed nerves of steel to stick his approach to ten feet.
He missed the resulting birdie putt, but par was good enough for a round of 69 and 14 under par total at DLF Golf & Country Club.
That was two better than Spain’s Jorge Campillo, whose 67 was the joint-best effort of the day, and German Marcel Siem – who had a sniff of a chance at the last until his third found the bunker, the resulting par leaving him with a 70.
Lara and Australian Marcus Fraser shared fourth on 11 under, two-time winner Lara finding water at the final hole to sink his chances after a brilliant outward 32 had given him a share of the lead.
“I’m very relieved to win for the first time,” said Kruger, who putted beautifully all week. “If you want to win you need to make putts on the final day and I did that today.
“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 it. There was no pressure even when I made my only bogey of the day on the 17th.
“I felt that victory was inevitable when I got to the 14th hole. I knew that I had a good chance as I had a comfortable three-shot cushion then. I like to know what’s going on and I’m aware of the movements on the leaderboard.”
Earlier a red-hot putter moved Lara into contention as the 34 year old holed 15 foot birdie putts at the first and third, before curling in a monster 60 footer at the fifth.
Overnight leader Kruger responded with a birdie at the fourth from 12 feet, and both gained a shot on the long sixth, before Lara almost holed-in-one at the par three eighth, leaving a tap-in birdie.
Kruger holed a birdie putt from 20 feet at the eighth to enter the back nine with a one shot lead, and the decisive fourth birdie of the day followed at the par three 11th.
Lara was struggling from the tee by this point, and although he scrambled pars at the ninth, tenth and 12th, he caught a flyer on the 13th and his 25 foot par putt finished a fraction short to leave Kruger three clear.
Lara found water at the last, allowing Campillo snatch a share of second with a chip-in birdie on the same hole, while Siem - fourth last week in Dubai – had six birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey, the highlight coming when the 31 year old struck his approach from the rough to five feet to set up a birdie at the first.
“I started really well and the whole time was up there on the leaderboard,” said Challenge Tour graduate Campillo, who holed a 30 footer on the eighth to complete a hattrick of gains.
“So it was great fun and very exciting. I just tried to play my best. I played okay on the back nine, not great, but I didn’t make many mistakes and I chipped in on the last for birdie so it was nice to finish strongly.
“It was just very exciting. I knew I was playing well and all of a sudden after eight holes I’m up at the top of the leaderboard. It’s the first time I’ve been in that situation and I think I handled it pretty well. Next time this happens maybe I can just do slightly better on the back nine.”
There was disappointment for Scotland’s Peter Whiteford, however. Chasing his maiden European Tour title, the Scot was only one behind overnight, but eagle-eyed viewers alerted European Tour Chief Referee John Paramor to an incident on the 18th fairway during the third round.
Whiteford’s ball moved fractionally after he had addressed it, and having already signed for an incorrect score he was informed of his disqualification upon reaching the fourth tee.