August 17, 2014
The inaugural Fiji International came to a thrilling end with an experienced Steven Jeffress (-10) eclipsing a determined Jake Higginbottom (-6) on the final stretch. Anirban Lahiri finished T12 after posting a 73 in the final round at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course. The event, co-sanctioned by PGA Tour of Australasia and OneAsia saw Vijay Singh play in Fiji for the first time in 35 years. The local hero finished 10th after carding a 73 on Sunday.
Gusting winds have swept the picturesque course for much of this week, making low scores a challenging proposition. In the end there were just five men who could break par on the 6,465 metre course. Lahiri got off to a troublesome start – a double bogey at the par-5 fifth denting the Indian’s prospects as he began his final assault for a place in the top ten of this $1mn event.
A birdie at the sixth, another par-5, seemed to lift the Indian’s spirit as he kept steady to complete the front nine in 37 shots. Bogeys at the 11th and 12th holes slipped the Indian to 3-over for the round, with a real risk of falling outside the top twenty for the tournament. But Lahiri managed three birdies on the final stretch to ensure that he completed his card at 1-over, enough to give him a tie for twelfth with David Smail and Cameron Smith.
Jeffress was a picture of calm over the final stretch, making three birdies over the final four holes to distance himself from his battling opponent. Higginbottom paid the price for his excesses on the inward nine – four bogeys and a solitary birdie nearly not enough to threaten Jeffress who was racing away into the distance. Eventually, Jeffress claimed a four shot victory with a 70 in the final round.
Andrew Dodt slipped to third after suffering a four-over 76 on Sunday in a tie with Terry Pilkadaris. Hur In-Hoi finished fifth despite making a 75 on Sunday. Kim Tae-Hoon was tied for sixth with Ryan Fox and Michael Sim, all finishing with an even par 288. The best round of the day was produced by Park Hyo-Won, whose 68 catapulted him inside the top ten.
Report by Anand Datla