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Australian Jeffress beats compatriot Higginbottom to Fiji title

(Reuters) - Australian golfer Steve Jeffress recorded the biggest win of his career after he beat compatriot Jake Higginbottom in a final-day shootout to claim the inaugural $1 million Fiji International on Sunday.

The 38-year-old had started the day level with Higginbottom on eight-under-par but fired a final round two-under 70 to win the OneAsia and PGA Tour of Australasia event by four shots.

"This is the number one win of my career without a doubt and it is special. I am over the moon and a bit surprised," said Jeffress after his biggest pay day in 15 years as a professional golfer.

"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."

Jeffress and Higginbottom were locked level after 14 holes of the final round at the Vijay Singh-designed Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course only for the 20-year-old to drop a shot by hitting his tee shot into the hazard at the par-three hole.

Jeffress recorded a birdie on the same hole for a crucial two-shot swing and confidently closed out his round by picking up two more shots on 17 and 18 to seal victory.

The $180,000 winner's cheque moved him up to third on the OneAsia Order of Merit behind South Koreans Kim Seung-hyuk and Park Jun-won with five events remaining this year.

Home favorite Singh signed for a 73 to grab a share of 10th place, 12 shots back of Jeffress.

"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," the three-times major winner said.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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