Suva: Australian Steve Jeffress recorded the biggest win of his 15-year career with a strong finish to shut out compatriot Jake Higginbottom in the inaugural US$1.0 million Fiji International on Sunday.
In an absorbing head-to-head on the final day, the seasoned Jeffress, 38, fired three birdies in the final four holes to finish on two-under 70, 10 under for the tournament and four strokes clear of the 20-year-old Higginbottom.
After starting the day sharing the lead, Higginbottom held a two-shot advantage at the turn before the wheels started to come off for the younger player when he bogeyed the 10th and the 13th.
At the par-three 15th, with the frontrunners tied on seven under for the tournament, Higginbottom hit a poor tee shot into a hazard short of the green.
Although he was able to rescue a bogey he lost contact with Jeffress who made birdie for a crucial two-shot swing.
Higginbottom suffered another bogey on the 16th to hand Jeffress a three-shot lead with two to play which he stretched to a four-shot margin with birdie on the 18th.
"I`m over the moon and a bit surprised," said Jeffress, whose performance earned him a a prize cheque of US$180,000 and whose most significant win previously was the 2006 Victorian PGA.
"It has been years of hard work and family support so it feels very special."
Fellow Australians Terry Pilkadaris and Andrew Dodt tied for third, eight behind the winner after rounds of 71 and 76 respectively.
Fiji`s acclaimed Vijay Singh, who designed the Natadola Bay course, finished off with a 73 to end tied in 10th place.
Leading final scores (Australian unless stated)
278 - Steve Jeffress 69-70-69-70
282 - Jake Higginbottom 68-69-71-74
286 - Terry Pilkadaris 70-76-69-71, Andrew Dodt 68-71-71-76
287 - Hur In-Hoi (KOR) 70-72-70-75
288 - Kim Tae-Hoon (KOR) 74-74-69-71, Ryan Fox (NZL) 69-76-70-73, Michael Sim 71-70-71-76
289 - Park Hyo-Won (KOR) 73-72-76-68
290 - Vijay Singh (FIJ) 73-74-70-73, Brad Kennedy 70-71-70-79