Date: February 07, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

Nick off to a #VicOpen flyer


If 13th Beach had a trainer, it would have thrown in the towel … and early.

Both Beach and Creek courses took a fearful pounding today, unparalleled in ISPS Handa Vic Open history as benign conditions paved the way for some knockout scoring.

No fewer than 64 men carded rounds of 68 or better. If that trend was to continue into Friday’s second round, the cut would fall somewhere in an astonishing eight under range.

Astonishingly, 31 of those were 66 or better.

On any other day, rising start Lucas Herbert, past champ Matt Griffin, emerging home-state amateur Andre Lautee or evergreen Wade Ormsby – four of seven to card 65s – would have grabbed headlines.

Or the stories of nine-birdie-in-a-row hero James Nitties or Chilean entertainer Hugo Leon – two of six at eight-under-par – would have been the talk of the town.

But instead, that honour was left to one of Australian golf’s most loveable battlers, Nick Flanagan.

Flanagan, a proud Novocastrian now based in Texas, was only two under through seven holes having teed off on the 10th of the Creek Course – and looking down the barrel of a good but unspectacular round.

But five birdies and his second eagle of the round on the front nine changed all that in a mad rush, culminating in a career-best tournament round of 10-under-par 62.

“It felt super uncomfortable, but it kind of came easy if that makes any sense. It doesn't really,” the softly spoken Flanagan said after his round.

“A couple of putts early dropped and then I just wasn't trying too hard essentially.  I just had one of those days where everything seemed to kind of go right.

“If I hit a bad shot, it would just miss a bunker and end up in a nice lie, knocked it up close and kind of just kept momentum going.

“You obviously never expect to kind of do what I did, because I had a bogey when I was at six under and went back to five, and then next thing you know, (I went) birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie and you're at 10 under.

“It can come up that quick.”

Flanagan, the 2003 US Amateur champion, has been as far as the US PGA Tour in his rollercoaster career.

But he’d all but given up chasing the grand dream until he was caddie for good mate Aron Price at the 2016 US Open and something sparked inside.

From that point, and with his injury-riddled body finally starting to work with instead of against him, Flanagan has walked an unglamorous path back to this point, including coming through the PGA Tour of Australasia Q-school in 2017 to give himself his only status in the gruelling world of professional golf.

“I've been playing well for the last two years, I just haven't been playing enough golf,” he said.

“I’m just trying to lower the expectations again and kind of get back to where I was. Obviously today it worked.  It's not going to work every day this year, but if it keeps working this week, it would be great. If it doesn't, just keep building on that for the next couple weeks.

“Having five events in a row (including New Zealand) is obviously great, too, because that takes a lot of pressure off rather than just having one big event and then sitting down for three weeks doing nothing.”

As much as he’s trying to stay in the moment, Flanagan knows the big prize at week’s end would change his wild ride’s direction once more.

“I would love to play in Europe. I feel like the European Tour suits my game, courses like this and just a little bit of different golf to some of the golf I've been playing for the last two or three years.  And those Monday qualifiers get old quick, so I'm kind of pretty sick of them.”