Nick Flanagan was quieter at 13th Beach today, but he’s still making some noise.
The Novacastrian had to wait all morning as the ISPS Handa Vic Open lead that he had created with his stunning 62 on Thursday was eked away by the early players. Then in the afternoon as the winds came up and the conditions stiffened, Flanagan calmly picked his way around the course to card a 68 and regain a piece of the top spot on the leaderboard.
By day’s end he shared the lead with Perth’s Jason Scrivener at 14-under par at the halfway mark of the tournament, and they are a shot ahead of South Australia’s European Tour veteran Wade Ormsby at 13-under.
A victory would be huge to all of them, although Ormsby’s late-2017 breakthrough win gave him a job in Europe until 2020. For Flanagan and Scrivener, it would give them the big-tour status they crave.
Australians are prominent at the top; of the leading eight players only Scotsman David Law and France’s Clement Sordet (who shot the day’s low 64) are from offshore. It was a red letter day at 13th Beach, with big galleries following the marquee groups of both the men’s and women’s tournaments but not necessarily, as it happened, the leaders.
The likes of Lucas Herbert, who is in the mix at 10-under, drew supportive crowds and the players lapped up the relaxed atmosphere, without the ropes.
Flanagan was happy to keep himself in the mix for another day. “I think yesterday was kind of a bit of a surprise, but you at the same time I played well and kind of got everything out of my game,’’ he said. “I'm probably happier with today's round considering it was backing up that 62. And it could have been anything today, probably could have been a couple better, but I had my fair share of long putts and good breaks so far the first two days. So to be up there at the top of the leaderboard's obviously great and we'll go out on the weekend and just kind of keep doing what I'm doing.”
Scrivener has gone 64-66 in his methodical way, best described in his own words as “plotting your way around”. In two full days he has not deigned to card a single bogey, which is some golf by the 29-year-old, who is franking the good form he has shown on the European Tour in the past year.
“I think we can play … the golf course has been pretty benign the last two days, so (I’m) definitely aware that it can get up and the scoring can get a lot tougher,’’ he said afterward. “We'll see what happens on the weekend.
“Anytime your game's in a good place and you're constantly making cuts and putting yourself in contention, it's good for confidence. I just feel like over the last six months I've made some big improvements in my game and steadily progressing the last couple years. I feel like it's in a good position and I just want to give myself more chances to win tournaments.”
Orsby’s case is interesting; the 38-year-old has played well enough over the past few years in Europe to be no kind of surprise as a joint leader, but he has made recent changes that have kicked in quickly. Notably he has parted from regular coach Darren Cole and taken up this week with Liam James from the academy run by the British professional Robert Rock.
“If you keep doing the same stuff you’re never going to get better,’’ he said. “It’s always a work in progress, this game.’’
Western Australian Matt Jager and Queenslander Brad Kennedy are tied-fourth at 12-under, just two shots from the lead. South Australian left-hander Nick Cullen is at 11-under and right in contention along with former winner Matt Griffin and Australia’s top-ranked player in this field, Herbert, at 10-under.
As for Flanagan, he is focusing on the moment. “(The) same thing I'm kind of working on at the moment is just really being kind of happy with the effort I'm making on every shot and not worrying about result,’’ he said. “It's cliché, but it works. So my goal is to really get to the end of a round and be happy with what I've done between the ears, and if it's a 74 or a 64, it doesn't really matter, that's the goal for the weekend.”
The courses played two shots harder today but the low scores from round one saw a cut of five-under par set. Among those to miss the weekend are English visitor Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, former winners Simon Hawkes and Dimi Papadatos and recent European Tour star Jake McLeod, along with Japanese visitor Ryo Ishikawa.
-14 Nick Flanagan (Aust), Jason Scrivener (Aust)
-13 Wade Ormsby (Aust)
-12 Matt Jager (Aust), Brad Kennedy (Aust)
-11 David Law (Scotland), Nick Cullen (Australia), Clement Sordet (France)