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Birdies galore on day one of Vic Open

Flanagan faces the media for the first occasion in some time (Photo: Golf Australia)
Englishwoman Felicity Johnson and Australian Nick Flanagan lead the respective Women’s and Men’s Vic Opens after day one of the event at 13th Beach.

Johnson’s 8 under par round of 65 at the Creek Course has given her a two shot lead over American Kim Kaufman, Canadian, Anne Catherine Tanguay and Australian Su Oh.

Johnson played the LPGA Tour for several seasons but was back on the Ladies European Tour last year after losing status in the USA.

A two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, this week offers a great opportunity for the 31 year old to play her way back to the LPGA Tour and she has made the perfect start.

Johnson has played several pro-ams in Victoria as part of her lead-up to the bigger events here, winning twice.

“I mean, it's been a good couple of weeks for me,” she said.  "I won the Warragul pro‑am and then again at Traralgon on the Women's PGA.  So it's been a fun lead‑up, see a bit of the country of Victoria and see some new places.

“I mean, it's the first day so there's a long way to go still, but I mean, if I can play anywhere near as solid as that the next three days I feel I'll be in contention come Sunday.

“It's always pretty hard to back up eight under with another strong one, so it's going to sound really clichÈ, but one shot at a time and see what it adds up to at the end of 18 holes tomorrow.”

Felicity Johnson

The highlight of joint second placed Su Oh was a hole in one at her 6th hole en-route to an outward nine of 31.

Flanagan was the 2003 US Amateur Champion and was the first Australian to win the coveted title but despite getting to the PGA Tour earlier in his career he has been plagued by injury and other issues during his time as a professional.

A 6th place finish at the recent Australian PGA Championship suggested that Flanagan’s game was returning and if that is the case then his great start might continue as the week progresses at the Vic Open.

Today the 34-year-old displayed the sort of form that not only saw him win amateur golf’s greatest title but four events on the Web.Com Tour in 2007 allowing him to play on the PGA Tour in 2008.

Given there were two bogeys in his round of 10 under par 62 over the Creek Course, it was a stunning effort.

Understandably there was a lot of positivity in Flanagan’s post-round press conference.

“I've started working again with a head coach that I worked with years ago and we're trying to kind of have this as a building year for me to just go out there and work on my mental game,” said Flanagan. 

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

Flanagan leads by two over a large group at 8 under including New Zealander James Anstiss, American Kirt Kitayama, Chilean Hugo Leon, England’s Callum Shinkwin and Australians James Nitties and Jason Scrivener.

Most of the talk on day one in the men’s field, however, would be on Nitties who is both a close friend and room-mate this week of Nick Flanagan, both players from Newcastle north of Sydney.

Nitties recorded nine consecutive birdies in the middle of his round to match the previous best professional tournament birdie stretch set by Mark Calcavecchia, Amy Yang and Bronte Law. It was an encouraging day for Nitties especially given his limited status worldwide at present.

"I was kind of devastated last year when I was four holes away from a European Tour card and currently have no status ‑‑ I mean, I have partial status on the Web.com Tour that will get me no starts.

"But yeah, anytime I can play well in a co‑sanctioned event and throw myself in the mix to have a chance to maybe get some status or even just play well in an event like this, it's always good.  Yeah, happy to start the year like that and, I mean, it was a cracking day, so it was good fun.

"I don't hold any other world records that I know of, so to be a part of one is pretty cool.  Had a good chance for that 10th birdie, but I didn't want to break it.  It's such a longstanding record, I wouldn't do that to Mark (Calcavecchia), so it's good to hold it with him."

126 players of the men’s field broke par on the opening day and 77 in the women's field, highlighting a superb day for scoring and perfectly presented golf courses.






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