Date: June 06, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

Flanagan back at the big dance

The forgotten man of Australian golf is about to return to one of the sport’s highest stages.

Newcastle’s Nick Flanagan today wound back the clock to qualify for next week’s US Open in Wisconsin with a spectacular performance at qualifying at Lakewood Country Club in surburban Dallas.

Flanagan, who’ll turn 33 next week, carded rounds of 68-65 to nab one of three spots available in the Texas qualifier, one of 10 around the United States in what’s known as “the longest day in golf”.

The Texas-based New South Welshman just last year returned to the scene of his magical 2003 US Amateur triumph at Oakmont, where he caddied for good mate Aron Price.

At the time Flanagan said his return brush with the big time of which he was once part had sparked the fire in his belly and that he’d love to play a second US Open after his missed cut at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 at his only previous appearance.

He locked in his second with a small matter of 14 birdies against just three bogeys in 36 holes broken up by a rain delay.

Impressively, with the field closing late in the day, Flanagan peeled off seven of those birdies in his final 12 holes to finish at -11 and second to medallist Roman Robledo by just a shot.

“Just to play in any tournament at the moment is great,” said Flanagan, who stuffed a wedge from the trees left of the 18th fairway to a foot on his final hole to finish with an exclamation point.

"Obviously, a major again is going to be a trip — I’m looking forward to hopefully playing well.

"I’m a completely different person than I was 13 years ago, but I want to go there and play well. This is just baby steps for me after being sidelined with some injuries.”

Flanagan turned professional in 2004 after exercising his options for starts in the year’s first three majors.

He won three times on the then Nationwide Tour in 2007 to earn “battlefield promotion” to the US PGA Tour, but couldn’t manage to keep his card through a tough 2008 campaign.

Flanagan has since suffered through form slumps and serious injuries including a herniated disc and thumb surgery, but has always kept his hand in despite playing in places and tournaments far flung from the bright lights he’d once expected.

This year he has very limited status on the Web.Com Tour.

Of the other Aussies playing around the US today, Robert Allenby came closest to joining Flanagan, but the Victorian’s 71-71 at Jupiter Hills in Florida left him two over and in sixth position with only three qualifying positions available.

Matt Jones was within two shots of a playoff at five under in a tight field at Germantown, Tennessee, where Stuart Appleby finished four under and Brady Watt at one under.

Rod Pampling and Ash Hall were in the mix at Brookside, Ohio, for a long time before fading from contention in the second round. At the same venue, veteran Mat Goggin and youngsters Curtis Luck and Brett Coletta all withdrew before completing their second rounds.

Aron Price played well in the morning at Woodmont, Maryland, but withdrew during his second round, as did Rhein Gibson at Hawks Ridge, Georgia.

Lucas Herbert fired rounds of 72-77 at Tacoma, Washington, to miss a playoff for four spots by eight strokes.

Flanagan joins Jason Day, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Wade Ormsby as the Aussies at Erin Hills next week.