Emotions spill over as Flanagan falls just short

It was better than he expected yet short of what he truly needed.

Propelled from tournament obscurity to the final group of the Australian PGA Championship by virtue of his course record-equalling 9-under 63 on Saturday, the Novocastrian wasn’t entirely sure which Nick Flanagan would turn up at RACV Royal Pines Resort.

Would it be the phenomenal junior talent who claimed the 2003 US Amateur and three Nationwide Tour events in 2007 to have the world at his feet? Or would the world No.1118 who has battled injury and a crisis of confidence for the best part of a decade wilt under the intense spotlight that comes with a showdown with Adam Scott?

Settling the nerves with a monster birdie putt from the fringe at the par-5 third, Flanagan remained in contention to win the Joe Kirkwood Cup right up until the 13th hole when a tee shot that found a fairway bunker spiralled into a double-bogey, a further dropped shot at 14 effectively ending his tilt at the title.

That he responded with consecutive birdies at 15 and 16 is testament to his character, character that has been tormented by the cruel vagaries of professional golf.

With he and wife Corinne expecting their first child on January 11, Flanagan has considered a more stable life outside the ropes in recent times and couldn’t suppress the emotional pressure he has been under to simply provide for his young family.

“My wife and I really need it at the moment,” Flanagan said before taking a couple of minutes to compose himself, his tie for third worth $62,700.

“I haven’t been able to really play a stress-free round of golf, kind of wanting to make money.

“And obviously with the baby on the way, this is huge for us.

“Over Christmas I’ll actually feel like I can sit down on the couch for a couple weeks and actually relax and not think about where the next cheque’s coming from, at least for two or three weeks at least, so that’s nice.

“That’s kind of why I was getting a little emotional there for a second.

“I’ve been talking about coming home and doing a (PGA Professional) bridging course and doing all that stuff the last couple of months. It’s still possibly on the cards, but it’s like golf just keeps pulling me back in.

“When I’m just about down, I’ll have a good finish. It’s just golf.”

Although he probably can’t appreciate fully Flanagan’s struggles, Australian PGA Championship victor Adam Scott knows Flanagan’s talent.

The pair were in the same group with Ernie Els when the South African legend shot 60 in the 2004 Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne, Scott a year after winning The Players and Flanagan the country’s ‘next big thing’.

Their paths have gone down wildly differing directions in the 15 years since but Scott saw reason for optimism in the way his former surf buddy handled the Sunday heat.

“Nick and I reminisced just a couple weeks ago about playing golf with Ernie when he shot 60 at Royal Melbourne,” Scott recalled after claiming his second Joe Kirkwood Cup.

“Nick was in the group with me, so that’s 15 years ago, so we’ve known each other a long time.

“We’ve been on surf trips together and I’m really happy to see Nick playing golf like that today.

“He’s playing really good and I hope he takes a lot out of the last couple weeks and gets himself back to where he wants to be.

“He’s obviously very talented, but he looked good out there today, I liked it.”

Flanagan will return to his expectant wife in San Antonio on Monday morning again wrestling with the stranglehold golf holds over him.

His top-five finish on the Gold Coast would earn him a start at the European Tour’s next event, the South African Open, only it falls the week his first child is due.

With only past champions status on the Korn Ferry Tour that offers very few playing opportunities, it’s just another test by the golf god’s of Flanagan’s will to fight on.

“The same thing happened to me last year. I missed the New South Wales Open and the Australian Open cuts and I was hitting it absolutely horrendous,” Flanagan added.

“Actually felt I was hitting it good this year and then I got here and felt like I didn’t have my swing, my wrist was giving me issues.

“It just all builds up and gets to a point where I pretty much just say ‘F it, let’s go out and just try and enjoy it for a week and see what happens.’

“I got in the game out there today, which I haven’t done in a long time.

“I felt like I could have won the tournament.

“If somebody asked me that four days ago, I would have laughed at them.

“Just goes to show I know I can do it.”

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