Thanks to a severe cold front hitting Gauteng, players were greeted to cold and rainy conditions, and Flanagan’s two-stroke lead over the congested field comes thanks to a new putting approach, as well as experience gained from college golf in Houston.
“It was quite cold and wet, but I’m kind of used to the conditions having played in similar conditions back in Houston when I played college golf. I just drew on those experiences and you’ve just got to be patient out there and realise that the majority of the field are going to be knocked down from the word go because they aren’t really happy with the conditions,” explained Flanagan.
Flanagan’s new putting approach yielded some impressive putts on the pristine putting surfaces at Glendower Golf Club, but the 24-year-old says it is still a work in progress.
“Yeah I had a major breakthrough with my putting. I kind of had enough of putting mediocre, so I just changed a few things and I’m excited about how I’m putting the ball. I had 28 putts today – I hardly ever break 30 putts – so I’m really happy about that,” said Flanagan. “I’ll keep the secret in the bag until I’m ready to reveal it. It’s still a work in progress,” he added.
“The course is beautiful, it’s immaculate. I think this rain softened up the greens, which helps a lot. I wouldn’t say the course is unplayable on a day like this, but if you just be patient and steady you can get a score out there.”
Englishman Billy Spooner carded a three-under-par 69 to sit in a tie for second alongside Jaco Prinsloo and Kevin Rundle, and the two South Africans said it was some of the coldest weather they’ve experienced on a golf course.
“It’s cold out there. There’s a bit of wind out there which makes it really chilly and I had my beanie and my gloves on the whole day. It’s probably one of the coldest days I’ve ever played golf in,” said Prinsloo.
“Look at a stage it was extremely cold for quite a long time. Those four or so holes, I couldn’t feel my fingers while holding the putter, so I think it kind of helped because it made me work with my shoulders and not let me get my hands involved. If you embrace it then it works and it helps,” said Rundle.
Highly rated Englishman Haydn McCullen sits on one-under-par alongside four others, including 2007 Johnnie Walker Classic winner Anton Haig, while 2015 MENA Tour Order of Merit winner Thriston Lawrence carded a level-par 72.
A seven o’clock start tomorrow morning will see four groups return in order to complete their opening rounds, among those is Northern Irishman John McClean who sits on one-under-par, with one hole to complete.