Kruger commits to Handa Singapore

The ISPS Handa Singapore Classic next month continues to attract top stars from across the region such as Jbe Kruger, Yuta Ikeda and Tetsuji Hiratsuka.

Golf News: Jbe Kruger

Five of this year's Asian Tour champions, including local hero Mardan Mamat, India's Anirban Lahiri, American David Lipsky, Kieran Pratt of Australia and Kruger, will also headline the US$400,000 tournament at the Orchid Country Club from April 5-8, 2012.

The ISPS Handa Singapore Classic will be beamed live on the Asian Tour's global television platform during the final two rounds.

India's Jeev Milkha Singh, a two-time Asian Tour number one and a former champion at the Barclays Singapore Open, had earlier committed to the seventh leg of this season's Asian Tour, the region's elite circuit.

Such is the strength of the field that over 40 champions, with no fewer than 100 victories accumulated between them on the Asian Tour, will gather for the third edition of the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic.

Himmat Rai of India, who secured his maiden victory last season after a titanic five-man play-off, will be back to defend his crown.

All eyes will certainly be on current number one Kruger, a slightly built but supremely powerful South African. The 25-year-old broke through for his maiden Asian Tour title in a big way in February when he claimed victory at the co-sanctioned Avantha Masters in India.

A return to the Orchid Country Club will install him as one of the early favourites as Kruger finished runner-up in the inaugural event in 2010 and was joint seventh last year.

With a healthy lead of over US$285,000 on the Merit list, Kruger plans on being the first South African to win the prestigious Order of Merit title, which rewards the winner with exemptions into the British Open and WGC-Cadillac Championship.

"My main goal on the Asian Tour is to win the Order of Merit as I think this win (in India) is definitely going to help me achieve that. I also want to get as high as I can in the world rankings," said Kruger, who is currently 112th in the world.

"It's a big relief that I have won but I think I needed all those second place finishes in the past to be able to appreciate it.  I'm in good form and I want to be up there against the best," added the South African, who finished a creditable fourth on the Order of Merit last season.

The impending arrival of the 26-year-old Ikeda, who is highly rated in Japan, will add spice to the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic, which is title sponsored by the International Sports Promotions Society (ISPS). Its chairman Dr Haruhisa Handa is using the event to push for golf's inclusion into the Paralympics in 2020 or 2024.

Ikeda has won nine times in his young career on the Japan Golf Tour and is presently ranked 102nd in the world.

Hiratsuka is no stranger to Asia as he finished second on the Order of Merit last season after securing his fourth title on the Asian Tour. In 2010, he won three times in Asia to finish fifth on the rankings.

"I love Asia and the Asian Tour," said Hiratsuka, 40. "I enjoy competing on the Asian Tour as we play on good courses and the competition is very strong."

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