Tournament article

Shinhan Donghae Open 2022

Kruger sets sights on Shinhan Donghae Open glory again

Kruger sets sights on Shinhan Donghae Open glory again

South Africa's Jbe Kruger is relishing the prospects of "defending his title" at the Shinhan Donghae Open to finally stamp his mark in Japan.

The KR₩1.4 billion (132,580,000) tournament is making a long-overdue ground-breaking appearance at the Koma Country Club in Nara Prefecture today, two years later than it was previously scheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It marks the first time the event jointly sanctioned by JGTO, Korean Tour and Asian Tour takes place in Japan.

As for the 36-year-old Kruger, he will get his chance to prove his worth in Japan.

Kruger's previous victory in Incheon three years ago earned him a full two-season JGTO exemption but he has not been able to impress yet to date.

Kruger's best result was a tied-fifth at the 2019 Panasonic Open Golf Championship, which came a week after his Shinhan Donghae Open triumph.

Kruger, a winner of seven professional titles, said the last three years of his career have been "life-changing", especially having added Japan to his tour schedule.

"It's been a mixed bag and life-changing I would say, because you travel around and play in just one country," said Kruger, who boasts five victories on Sunshine Tour.

"While it definitely made travel a little bit easier, it's also tough to be away from home three to four months in succession.

"It's been really a different experience than playing on the Asian Tour and a whole new challenge for me.

"The range here is also challenging because one week you find yourself hitting 30 to 20 metres downhill and then the very next week it's the other way round.

"Other than that the golf course is absolutely amazing. There's not a leaf, grass out of place


"I do enjoy my time here in Japan nonetheless as it is a proper first-world country. Everything is pretty easy here."

Kruger has set his sights on keeping his full JGTO status and knows he has work cut out for him in a bid to prolong his stay.

Backed with two top-10 finishes, Kruger is currently ranked 50th on the JGTO Money Rankings. He needs to finish inside top-65 to retain full playing privileges.

"It all depends on where the wind blows me. If I can keep my card, I'll probably still play here," he said.

Ahead of today's tee-off, Kruger admitted to feeling bizarre on his first return to the tournament since his 2019 triumph.

"It's actually funny to feel in my heart like I’m the defending champion three years down the line, the events played on (in South Korea) after the year I won, but I couldn't go," he said.


"So, it really dampens the spirit a bit to know that you're not the defending champion but playing in just another event."

The JGTO contingent spearheaded by current money leader Kazuki Higa will be aiming to make Japan proud on home soil as there has not been a Japanese winner since Yoichi Yamamoto won it in 1989.

Also in the fray are last week's Fujisankei Classic winner Kaito Onishi, Yuto Katsuragawa, Hiroshi Iwata, Shugo Imahira, Rikuya Hoshino and Yuki Inamori.

They will be up against the cream of the crop Korean Tour such as defending champion Yoseop Seo, Junseok Lee, Bio Kim, Taehoon Ok as well as Asian Tour's aces India's Gaganjeet Bhullar, Chan Shih Chang of Taiwan and Phachara Khongwatmai of Thailand.