Jbe Kruger (Getty Images)
Jbe Kruger hopes to turn a steady start to the season into a spectacular one by successfully defending his Avantha Masters title this week.
The 26 year old South African lifted his first European Tour title at DLF 12 months ago, although the tournament has now switched venues to Jaypee Greens Golf & Spa Resort, in Greater Noida.
Kruger’s maiden victory was followed by some indifferent form – he has had only one top-ten finish since – however, he has made the cut in all seven events entered this season and sits 50th in The Race to Dubai.
Asked about the chance to defend a European Tour title for the first time, Kruger said: “I’m very excited, it’s a real milestone in my career. I’m really looking forward to the week; I can’t wait for the tournament to get started now.
“It brings back a lot of good memories, and helps me to remember how well I was playing this time last year. It’s given me a real confidence and mental boost, which is what I need because I haven’t been playing that well lately.
“I sometimes use it as a mental tool - knowing that I can compete with and beat some of the best players in the world helps me to believe in myself a lot more, especially when I’m having a bad day or even a bad week. It’s always there, and nobody can take it away from me. It obviously took a lot of pressure off me, but you can’t keep looking back at the past; you’ve also got to move forward.
“I’m struggling a little bit at the moment, but I’ve been working very hard on my game lately so hopefully it will all come together here and we can have another good week.”
Amongst those hoping to dethrone favourite is home favourite Jeev Milkha Singh, and the Scottish Open champion is bullish about his chances after shaking off some niggling injury problems.
“I’ve been working really hard on my game, and it helps that I can hit as many balls as I want to in practice without having to worry about any aches and pains, which is a huge relief,” he said.
“If I’m injury-free, I feel I’m good enough to be in the top 50 in the World and competing in the Majors, so that has to be the goal for this season and looking further ahead.”