Michael Hoey leads strong Irish charge at Vic Open
Meanwhile, Leona Maguire struggled in the opening round of the co-sanctioned event
Conor Purcell of Ireland hits an approach shot during day one of the ISPS Handa Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Club in Geelong, Australia. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Paul Dunne, Gavin Moynihan and Michael Hoey are all well-placed after the opening round of the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia after the three Irishmen all carded under par round but the limelight was taken by Aussie Nick Flanagan who leads after a stunning 10 under par round of 62.
And it was a day of low-scoring on the sandbelt as Australia’s James Nitties equalled the world record by making nine consecutive birdies.
The 36-year-old’s incredible run matches the feat accomplished by former Open champion Mark Calcavecchia in the 2009 Canadian Open and followed a double bogey on the 14th hole of the Beach course at 13th Beach Golf Club, his fifth hole of the day.
For both Moynihan and Hoey this represents an important week as they make their first European Tour starts of 2019 and both look determined to pick up some valuable prize money as well as world ranking points.
Out early, Moynihan took a while to get going in the perfect conditions with eight straight pars to start before he reeled off five birdies in the next eight holes to get to five under par – the score at which he would finish to card a bogey-free round of 67.
Hoey went one better with his 66 which also included no bogeys while Dunne – building on his first made cut of the year in Saudi Arabia last week – dropped just one shot on his way to a three under par round of 69.
Portmarnock amateur Conor Purcell is also mixing it with the pros this week after gaining an invite off the back of his Australian Amateur Championship win last month.
The 20-year-old Dubliner became the first Irishman to win the famed title at Woodlands Golf Club in Melbourne in January and he kicked off his week alongside the professionals in good fashion on Thursday with three birdies on his front nine.
The Portmarnock man even moved to four under thanks to a birdie on the 10th but then things began to unravel somewhat as he bogeyed the 11th and then made three consecutive bogeys onhis final three holes, eventually adding up to a level par round of 72.
The Irish quartet all trail leader Flanagan, who had eight birdies and two eagles in a 62 on the Creek Course.
“A couple of early putts dropped and then I just wasn’t trying too hard, essentially,” Flanagan said. “I just had one of those days where everything seemed to kind of go right.”
But the story of the day was that of Nitties who tied the world record for consecutive birdies.
Austria’s 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 gains made him the first player to officially do it on the European Tour.
“I had a good chance for that 10th birdie but I didn’t want to break it,” Nitties joked. “It’s such a longstanding record, I wouldn’t do that to Mark, so it’s good to hold it with him.
“I’m pumped. I don’t hold any other world records that I know of, so to be a part of one is pretty cool. I definitely have the world record for best bounce-back stat because I holed the nine birdies and I preceded it with a double-bogey.
“I was a little peeved off that I made double from the middle of the fairway and followed up with a couple of birdies and then rattled off about seven or eight more — it’s pretty special.”
The tournament is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and LPGA and features men and women playing on the same courses at the same time for equal prize money in what is the first event of its kind worldwide.
In the women’s event, Leona Maguire is making her first start of the season and she sits nine off the lead set by England’s Felicity Johnson after two back nine bogeys saw the Cavan golfer sign for a round of 73 and one over par on the Beach Course.
Meanwhile, fortunes were better for Stephanie Meadow who picked up four birdies and just one bogey on her way to a three under par round of 70 to sit in a tie for 22nd.
Johnson carded an eight-under-par 65 to claim a two-shot lead over America’s Kim Kaufman, Canada’s Anne-Catherine Tanguay and Australia’s Su Oh.
Women’s British Open champion Georgia Hall is five shots off the lead after a 70, with Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew carding a 72 and Charley Hull returning a level-par 73.
Collated first round scores in the ISPS HANDA Vic Open, 13th Beach GC, Australia (British unless stated, par 72):
62 Nick Flanagan (Aus)
64 Hugo Leon (USA), James Anstiss (Aus), Callum Shinkwin, James Nitties (Aus), Jason Scrivener (Aus), Kurt Kitayama (USA)
65 Grant Forrest, Wade Ormsby (Aus), Matthew Griffin (Aus), Anton Karlsson (Swe), Lucas Herbert (Aus), Andre Lautee (a) (Aus), Peter Cooke (Aus)
66 Matt Jager (Aus), Adam Bland (Aus), Michael Sim (Aus), Aaron Pike (Aus), Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), Peter Lonard (Aus), Michael Hoey (NIrl), Andrew Johnston, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Ryan Fox (Nzl), Stuart Manley, Nick Cullen (Aus), Kim Koivu (Fin), Jason Norris (Aus), David Drysdale, Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Michael Long (Nzl)
67 David Law, Justin Harding (Rsa), Darren Beck (Aus), Oliver Wilson, Aaron Rai, Robert Macintyre, Bernd Ritthammer (Ger), Louis Ger Jager (Rsa), Jordan Mullaney (Aus), David Micheluzzi (a) (Aus), Dimitrios Papadatos (Aus), Gavin Moynihan (Irl), Maverick Antcliff (Aus), Andrew Dodt (Aus), Brad Kennedy (Aus)
68 Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Dale Williamson (Aus), Andrew Martin (Aus), Daniel Nisbet (Aus), Nathan Barbieri (a) (Aus), Andrew Evans (Aus), Michael Hendry (Nzl), Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), James Morrison, Zach Murray (Aus), Ashley Chesters, Dylan Perry (Aus), Daniel Gavins, Max McCardle (Aus), Ryan Lynch (Aus), Taylor MacDonald (Aus), Scott Gregory, Scott Vincent (Zim)
69 Matthew Millar (Aus), Paul Dunne (Irl), Clement Sordet (Fra), Matteo Manassero (Ita), Pedro Figueiredo (Por), Sam Brazel (Aus), Ben Evans, Thomas Aiken (Rsa), David Smail (Nzl), Stephen Leaney (Aus), Harrison Endycott (Aus), Scott Hend (Aus), Hyo-won Park (Kor), Per Langfors (Swe), Peter Fowler (Aus), Austen Truslow (USA), Aaron Townsend (Aus), Niklas Lemke (Swe), Guido Migliozzi (Spa), Steven Jeffress (Aus), David Borda (Spa), Jake McLeod (Aus), David Bransdon (Aus)
70 Gareth Paddison (Nzl), Austin Connelly (Can), Jin-ho Choi (Kor), Marcus Fraser (Aus), Daniel Gale (Aus), Blake Windred (a) (Aus), Harry Bateman (Nzl), Blake Proverbs (Aus), Christopher Fan (a) (Aus), Jack Thompson (a) (Aus), Max Orrin, Adrian Otaegui (Spa), Ryan Chisnall (Nzl)
71 Sihwan Kim (Kor), Callan O’Reilly (Aus), Matthew Nixon, Espen Kofstad (Nor), Scott Strange (Aus), Andrew Kelly (Aus), Peter Senior (Aus), Deyen Lawson (Aus), Jeunghun Wang (Kor), Matthew Stieger (Aus), Christopher Wood (Aus), Gregory Bourdy (Fra), Alexander Knappe (Ger), Ricardo Gouveia (Por), Ben Eccles (Aus), Terry Pilkadaris (Aus), Daniel Fox (Aus), Simon Hawkes (Aus), Ivan Cantero Gutierrez (Spa), Josh Younger (Aus), Robert Allenby (Aus), Tom Murray, Connor Syme, Jarryd Felton (Aus), Cory Crawford (Aus), Ashley Hall (Aus)
72 Kade McBride (Aus), Jordan Zunic (Aus), Kristoffer Reitan (Nor), Jake Higginbottom (Aus), Filippo Bergamaschi (Ita), Jorge Campillo (Spa), Richard McEvoy, Michael Wright (Aus), Jack Wilson (Aus), Richard Green (Aus), Tim Stewart (Aus), Liam Johnston, Anthony Quayle (Aus), Adam Burdett (Aus), Cameron John (Aus), Conor Purcell (Irl) (a)
73 Adrien Saddier (Fra), Max Schmitt (Ger), James Marchesani (USA), Ben Campbell (Nzl), Nick O’Hern (Aus), Braden Becker (Aus), Brady Watt (Aus), Mark Brown (Nzl), Travis Smyth (Aus)
74 Damien Jordan (Aus), Kristian Krogh Johannessen (Nor), Peter O’Malley (Aus), Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn)
76 Jasper Stubbs (a) (Aus)