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Flanagan sets the pace in Victoria

Nick Flanagan. © Getty Images
Nick Flanagan. © Getty Images

Home favourite Nick Flanagan recorded a brilliant round of 62 to take a two-shot lead at the end of a low-scoring first day of the ISPS Handa Vic Open.

Flanagan opened with a ten under par total – one shot away from the course record on the Creek course at 13th Beach Golf Links. The 34 year old has six professional wins worldwide but is chasing his first European Tour title in just his 16th event after finishing in the top ten at this season’s Australian PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, history was made over on the Beach course as countryman James Nitties carded a world record-equalling nine birdies in a row while matching the course record with a round of 64.

After teeing off from the tenth, his incredible run from the 15th to the fifth matched the feat of 1989 Open Championship winner Mark Calcavecchia at the 2009 Canadian Open on the US PGA Tour.

Austrian Bernd Wiesberger made nine birdies in a row at the 2017 Maybank Championship but with preferred lies in play on that occasion, Nitties’ run of nine consecutive gains made him the first player to officially do it on the European Tour.

That took him into a tie for second place alongside Englishman Callum Shinkwin, New Zealand’s James Anstiss and Chilean Hugo Leon, all of whom also equalled the course record.

Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open at Anahita champion Kurt Kitayama and another local star in Jason Scrivener are also at eight under par after playing the Creek course, a shot clear of Scotland’s Grant Forrest, Swede Anton Karlsson and five Australians – Peter Cooke, Matthew Griffin, Lucas Herbert, amateur Andre Lautee and Wade Ormsby.

The innovative ISPS Handa Vic Open is making its first appearance on the Race to Dubai, with men and women playing over the same layouts in separate tournaments for equal prize money. The men’s event is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, while the women’s championship is co-sanctioned by Australian Ladies Professional Golf and the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

Player quotes

Nick Flanagan:

“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.

“The two bogeys I had were really, really easy bogeys from nowhere. But I knew that if I could just keep hitting it in the middle of the greens over there, I was putting well enough that eventually I was going to make a couple more birdies.

“I had a bogey when I was at six under, and then next thing you know, birdie, birdie, eagle and you’re at nine under. The rest of it is history. So, it can come up that quick.

“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.”

James Nitties:

“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.

“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 Tour that will get me no starts.

“Any time 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.  Happy to start the year like that and, I mean, it was a cracking day, so it was good fun.”

Hugo Leon:

“Beautiful way to start the year for me. I holed out from 93 yards on two and then I proceeded to birdie four with a similar distance shot. Played very good from there on out.

“Everything was pretty sharp. I was very clean. My irons were very good today. The putter, obviously I rolled in some putts, but I felt like I was very good at placing the ball in the right spot. I had great looks all day.”

Kurt Kitayama:

“It was good, really solid. Just dropped one shot on the last there, but overall I was happy I was able to get some scoring on the back nine. A lot of opportunities on that Creek side, for sure. Just felt like I didn’t take advantage of the front, but I was able to make up for it on the back.

“It’s fairly open on the Creek side. Going to the Beach course tomorrow I’ll be in the afternoon and it’s going to be windy so it’s going to be a lot tougher to drive. I’ll hit a few this afternoon and try and get some rest, too.”