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Golf: Australia’s Jeffress ‘over the moon’ at Fiji International

Steve Jeffress broke away from third-round co-leader Jake Higginbottom to win OneAsia’s inaugural US$1 million Fiji International at Natadola Bay. Photos: OneAsia.

Steve Jeffress broke away from third-round co-leader Jake Higginbottom to win OneAsia’s inaugural US$1 million Fiji International at Natadola Bay. Photos: OneAsia.

August 17, 2014: Australia’s Steve Jeffress overcame young compatriot Jake Higginbottom in an absorbing final-day battle to win the inaugural US$1 million Fiji International, jointly sanctioned by OneAsia and the PGA Tour of Australasia.

 

Jeffress, 38, recorded the biggest win of his 15-year professional career after shooting a two-under-par 70 to finish 10-under, four ahead of 20-year-old Higginbottom (74) at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course.

 

Jeffress received a cheque for US$180,000, while Higginbottom also enjoyed the biggest payday of his fledgling career, earning US$102,000.

 

“I am over the moon and a bit surprised,” said Jeffress, whose most significant win previously came in the 2006 Victorian PGA. “It has been years of hard work and family support so it feels very special. I just hit it in the right places this week.”

 

The pair started the day sharing the lead, but Higginbottom held a two-shot advantage at the turn before the wheels started to come off for the youngster when he bogeyed the 10th and the 13th.

 

The turning point proved to be the par-three 15th, where the two frontrunners arrived tied on seven-under for the tournament. Higginbottom dumped a poor tee-shot into a hazard well short of the green and although he was able to rescue a bogey with a remarkable chip-in with his provisional from behind the green, Jeffress made birdie for a crucial two-shot swing.

 

Higginbottom bogeyed the next hole to virtually hand the title to Jeffress, who had the comfort of a three-shot lead with two to play. It was a lead he did not relinquish and which he embellished with a birdie on 18.

 

Higginbottom said he was put off by a distant cry from the nearby beach when he hit a 52-degree wedge into the hazard on the 15th, but said he was pleased with his week’s work overall.

 

“If you’d have said I would finish second at the start of the week I would have taken it. I played nice, but Jeffo played unbelievable,” said Higginbottom, who won the 2012 New Zealand Open as an amateur. “I made a couple of mistakes, but apart from that I was pretty solid again. It was a little disappointing as I was in control there for a while.”

 

Australians Terry Pilkadaris and Andrew Dodt tied for third on two-under after rounds of 71 and 76 respectively. Hur In-hoi from Korea, who stood out with his bleached-blonde hair, finished outright fifth after carding a 75.

 

Fijian hero Vijay Singh finished 10th on the Natadola Bay course he designed.

Fijian hero Vijay Singh finished 10th on the Natadola Bay course he designed.

Fijian legend Vijay Singh designed the Natadola Bay course, but seemed a little overwhelmed by the layout after finishing off with a 73 to end in 10th place.

 

“It was tough out there; tough putting, tough driving. It just doesn’t let up. There is so much trouble and you have to focus on every shot. However, I really enjoyed being here and it was so nice to see people come out and watch me,” said the 51-year-old Singh, a former World No. 1 and three-time major winner.

 

Nick Price, another former No. 1 and three-time major winner, finished off a solid four rounds with a 75 as the 57-year-old Zimbabwean ended in a tie for 35th place.

 

OneAsia’s next event is the US$1 million Nanshan China Masters at Nanshan International Golf Club from October 9-12.

 

Source: OneAsia (www.oneasia.asia); Editing by SportAsia

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