James Nitties has equalled 1989 British Open champ Mark Calcavecchia’s world record for successive birdies on a day of red-hot scoring at the men’s Vic Open on Thursday.
Not to be outstaged, his housemate Nick Flanagan shot a career-best round of 10 under to take the lead midway through round one at 13th Beach.
The 36-year-old Nitties didn’t know whether to put their dual successes down to a pre-tournament meal of burritos cooked by Flanagan although there’s every chance they will be on the menu again on Thursday night.
Nitties was kicking himself after making a double bogey from the middle of the fairway on his fifth hole.
What a World Record equaling, nine birdies in a row looks like….
— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) February 7, 2019
A couple of hours later he was in golfing heaven having reeled off nine straight birdies, equalling the record set by Calcavecchia at the 2009 Canadian Open.
“I don’t hold any other world records that I know of, so to be a part of one is pretty cool,” joked Nitties.
“I had a good chance for that 10th birdie, but I didn’t want to break it.
“It’s such a longstanding record and I wouldn’t do that to Mark.
“It’s good to hold it with him.”
Midway through a day of remarkably low scoring in ideal conditions, Nitties was among a group of six players tied for second at eight under, two shots behind clubhouse leader Flanagan.
It shapes as a potentially career-changing week for both Australians as neither hold full playing status anywhere overseas and victory would ensure a two-year exemption on the European Tour.
Not that Flanagan, the 2003 US Amateur champion, was looking that far ahead despite his lowest-ever tournament round.
“I have had a few nine unders on tour,” he said.
“It felt super uncomfortable, but it kind of came easy if that makes any sense, which it doesn’t really.
“A couple of early putts dropped and I just wasn’t trying too hard essentially.”
Flanagan, 34, paid tribute to the osteopath who fixed his back on Monday and to Brett “Moose” Stephens, who has helped him with the mental side of the game.
Stephens has enjoyed a varied sporting life.
He first made his mark in 133 VFL/AFL games for Fitzroy before becoming tennis legend Pete Sampras’s fitness trainer.
Nowadays he helps a variety of sportspeople in a different sphere.
“He definitely brings a different perspective to the mental side of things,” said Flanagan.
“The golf part is my department but in between shots is really his department.”
Among the prominent afternoon starters at the Vic Open on Thursday are 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and fellow Australians and former Vic Open champions Richard Green and Robert Allenby.
Earlier, Australian Su Oh made the early running at the women’s Vic Open with a spectacular hole-in-one and a share of the outright lead midway through the opening round at 13th Beach.
After starting her round on the 10th hole of the Creek course, Oh aced the 138m par-three 15th with a six-iron.
She was seven under with eight holes to play but dropped a shot in the run home.
Even so, Oh’s total of six under was good enough for a share of the clubhouse lead with Canada’s Anne-Catherine Tanguay.
Manon de Roey from Belgium was in outright third at five under.