Fiji, August 20: Australian Jason Norris kept his cool to sign for a closing five-under-par 67, claiming the biggest victory yet in his 21-year professional career with a convincing four-shot victory at the tri-sanctioned Fiji International on Sunday.
Norris, who was thinking of quitting the game a few years ago, revived his career after firing eight birdies against three bogeys to cap a winning total of 14-under-par 274 at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course.
The 44-year-old Norris takes home a winner’s prize purse of US$195,421 and moved to seventh place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, courtesy of his victory at the A$1.5 million (approximately US$1.14 million) event.
Young Thai talent Jazz Janewattananond fired the week’s lowest round score of 64 to grab a share of second place alongside Australian duo David McKenzie and James Marchesani, who closed with rounds of 67 and 70 respectively at the Fiji International.
Overnight leader Wade Ormsby of Australia battled to a 73 to finish five shots back in fifth place with compatriots Adam Bland (65), Daniel Pearce (69) and Peter Wilson (70) in the event tri-sanctioned for the first time by the Asian Tour, European Tour and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
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- Norris had planned to go to the Asian Tour Qualifying School for the 2018 season next January. He does not need to go now as he gets a two-year exemption on the region’s premier Tour with this victory. He also earned playing rights on the European Tour and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
- Norris had previously played on the Asian Tour in 2009. He missed three cuts out of 11 starts that season and his best result was a tied-15th place finish at the SAIL Open in India. He returned to the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2015 but did not make the mark.
- Norris, 44, claimed his third and last victory on his local Tour in 2010. His victory at the Fiji International is his fourth professional win and the first outside of Australia.
- Norris hit a total of 16 greens in regulation in his final round of 67. It is the most number of greens in regulation that he has hit in a single round this week. He took 29 putts in his closing round of 67.
- Jazz, 21, claimed his breakthrough win at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open in February to regain his playing rights on the Asian Tour. Prior to his tied-second place result at the Fiji International, he has notched three other top-10s in Chinese Taipei and his home country Thailand.
- Jazz moved up two spots to sixth on the Order of Merit after taking home US$87,434, thanks to his tied-second place result at the Fiji International.
- Jazz missed only one green in regulation in his closing round of 64, which is the new course record on the redesigned Natadola Bay Championship Golf course. He amassed a total of 28 putts, including an eagle-putt from 25 yards on the par-five 17.
- Vincent was named the Asian Tour rookie of the year in 2016 after he ended the season in 28th position on the Order of Merit. His tied-ninth place finish at the Fiji International is his first top-10 results this season. This result also saw him break into top-60 on the latest Order of Merit where he now sits in 40th place with a current haul of US$43,323.
“I didn’t think I would be here. Today I felt good, I felt like a champion, I felt like I was in a good spot.” Jason Norris, 44
It’s unbelievable. It’s good to see you all on Sunday instead of on Thursday every time. I felt really good all day, a couple of times I started getting ahead of myself, but my good mate/caddy Ace calmed me down and reminded me about the process.
I think it was just our week, everything aligned and putts dropped and some good shots came, it was amazing. I always thought I would win a big one but it never did. I said a couple of years ago when I was about to quit, that I didn’t want to give it away until I had won a big tournament because I know I can. I said to Ace, that’s it I am quitting now (laughs) but he told me not to get too ahead of myself.
I just tried to stay switched on and not think about the future, things come into your head you try to block them out. I was really happy with our processed today.
I played the first hole badly all week so to hole a good putt on the first for birdie settled things. I just stuck to one shot at a time but I putted really well on the front-nine and that is what gave it to us.
I was about to go to Asian Tour Qualifying School for next season so this has just saved me some money. I wanted to go to the European Tour about 15 years ago and it didn’t quite happen.
I didn’t think I would be here. Today I felt good, I felt like a champion, I felt like I was in a good spot.
A couple of years ago and then four years ago and then eight years ago. I was going to give it away a couple of years ago because I thought I was going to lose my card. I went to work, I started working at the Grange Golf Club and I was going to quit but I started playing well again.
I spoke to the boss last week and I said I would help out if needed but not on a permanent basis, I have probably two years left playing golf and I just want to have a crack. This came up probably quicker than I thought.
Today I used backhand grip all day. I putted well with the grip on the back-nine yesterday so I stuck with it. I putted sensational all day, even the ones that I three putted were just bad speed.
Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) – Final Round 64 (-8), Total 278 (-10)
I played with Adam (Bland) before in Japan and it was really nice to be playing with him again today. It was a two ball and we were the first group to head out this morning. I felt really comfortable and I enjoyed myself a lot. We played the front nine in less than an hour and a half!
Both of us played really well. We were rubbing off the good vibes from each other out there. We were just exchanging birdies out there. I didn’t think there will be any wind today. I think it will be calm the whole day so it wasn’t really an advantage playing in the morning.
I am just really happy to put up a good score. It’s always good to shoot a bogey-free round. I couldn’t make any putts in the first two days but I had been hitting the ball good all week. I managed to sink some putts today and yesterday and I guess that was the key.
I putted well to make my move up the leaderboard yesterday so I was feeling confident coming to the final round. I holed almost every putt that I have today. I am really pleased with how I played today. We waited about 20 minutes to tee off on the 17. Adam and I hit our second shots to about the same place.
He chipped it close first. I was at the front edge of the green and had about 25 yards to the pin. The initial plan was the hit it close from there. I didn’t expect to hole that putt! It took me by surprise! It was a great finish coming down the stretch.
It’s my first time in Fiji and I really enjoyed myself this week. It’s a great place to be. It’s a very golf course. I am enjoying the views out there. I made the halfway cut on the number and made a big move on the leaderboard in the last two rounds. I have no complaints.
Scott Vincent (Zim) – Final Round 71 (-1), Total 280 (-8)
It’s been a great week. It’s nice to come and play here. First year out here, I can’t be too disappointed with my result this week. One or two shots could have made the difference today but overall, I played really solid.
It’s still a good week. I have a lot of positives to take away from this week and hopefully I can ride on the good form heading into the remainder of the season.
Scores after round 4 of the Fiji International being played at the par 72, 6575 Metres Natadola Bay CGC course (am – denotes amateur):
274 – Jason Norris (AUS) 69-68-70-67.
278 – Jazz Janewattananond (THA) 74-72-68-64, David McKenzie (AUS) 68-71-72-67, James Marchesani (AUS) 71-70-67-70.
279 – Adam Bland (AUS) 68-71-75-65, Daniel Pearce (NZL) 66-71-73-69, Peter Wilson (AUS) 68-71-70-70, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 69-71-66-73.
280 – Jarryd Felton (AUS) 71-71-72-66, Gareth Paddison (NZL) 73-69-71-67, Scott Vincent (ZIM) 73-68-68-71.
281 – Mark Brown (NZL) 75-71-69-66, Aron Price (AUS) 72-74-68-67, Jake McLeod (AUS) 72-70-71-68, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 72-72-68-69.
282 – Josh Geary (NZL) 72-73-70-67, Harry Bateman (NZL) 74-66-71-71, Michael Sim (AUS) 69-72-70-71, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 70-73-68-71.
283 – Michael Long (NZL) 77-69-67-70, Shunya Takeyasu (JPN) 72-72-68-71, Rahil Gangjee (IND) 69-72-70-72, Stephen Leaney (AUS) 71-69-70-73.
About the Fiji International
To be held from 17-20 August the Fiji International will be played at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course which boasts breathtaking views of the Coral Coast and is home to the Natadola Beach Land Estate.
Enticed by the tropical destination, the Fiji International has attracted some of the world’s best golfers since its inaugural staging in 2014 including Fijian hero and three time Major champion Vijay Singh, 2016 champion Brandt Snedeker, 2015 champion Matt Kuchar, 2014 champion Steven Jeffress, Steven Bowditch, Boo Weekley, Nick Price, Robert Allenby, Heath Slocum, Liang Wenchong, and Anirban Lahiri.
In 2017, the Fiji International continues to have a global presence confirming its position as an integral tournament in the South Pacific region, with the tournament being tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
A Pacific paradise, the Fiji International also boasts some of the most unique hospitality options in world golf with the par-3 8th hole providing the perfect vantage point to watch the golf, whilst socialising on the beach.
More than just a golf tournament, the Fiji International aims to leave a lasting legacy for golf in the Pacific region, with the PGA of Australia supporting initiatives to introduce and grow the game in Fiji.
Owned by SEL and the PGA of Australia, the Fiji International is proudly supported by the Fijian Government, Tourism Fiji and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa as the official resort of the tournament until 2017.
For more information about the Fiji International please visit fijiinternational.com.
About Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), FENIX XCell (Official Apparel Supplier), Titleist (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Partner), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official International Media Partner), Panasonic (Official Consumer Electronics) and Rolex (Official Timekeeper). Sentosa, Singapore is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.
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