NICK Flanagan has never lost faith in his game.
There have been tough periods.
Surgery and months of rehabilitation on a troublesome thumb. Missed cuts. Missed cards. Missed opportunities. Thousands of kilometres travel to play Monday qualifiers and mini tours in the US. Time away from wife Corrine.
"It is not always glamorous," the Novocastrian said. "I have seen everything from the top of it to the bottom."
Driving Flanagan is a belief that, at his peak, he can compete with the best players in the biggest tournaments in the world.
Four wins on the Korn Ferry US second-tier tour, a year on the US PGA tour and a string of top-10 finishes in Australia are confirmation of the 2003 US Amateur champion's ability.
It will be no different when the 35-year-old walks on to the tee for first round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith and Louis Oosthuizen are the headline acts at the $1.5 million event at The Australian Golf Course.
"I have been playing good golf," said Flanagan, who missed out at the final stage of European Q School last month. "I did a lot more Monday qualifiers [for US tour events] this year and had a bunch of close calls. I lost a couple in a play-off and others by a shot. It has been one of those years.
"I have been striking the ball well, I just haven't had the opportunity to play in golf tournaments. I need to get some intensity back in my golf. These weeks always create that. Strong fields, grandstands around the course - it feels like a proper golf tournament rather than qualifiers, which can get old quick.
"The motivation is still there. The older you get the harder you have to work at it mentally. I have no doubt that I can still play and compete with these guys and even win one."
Adding to Flanagan's motivation is pending fatherhood.
Corrine, whose father Tom Byrum is a USPGA Tour-winner, is due to give birth to their first child on January 11 and is home in San Antonio.
"The anxiety levels have risen a little," Flanagan said. "I really haven't had time to enjoy the fact it is coming up because of all the travel I have been doing. "Corrine has been getting super uncomfortable. She is ready and it's becoming a lot more real. I will be home two-and-a half weeks before the due date. By the end of next week I will be more on edge and checking every text message."
As well as the Open, Flanagan will tee up in the $1.5m Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast from December 19-22.
Although lacking recent big-tournament experience, he finished 10th and led after the opening two rounds at the $1.5m European co-sanctioned Victorian Open in February.
"I do enjoy coming home," Flanagan said. "These golf courses suit me a lot more - firm and fast. It definitely gives me a bit of confidence. I feel like I belong back here."
Flanagan played a practice round at The Australian with fellow Novovastrian and former US tour-winner Nathan Green on Tuesday.
"It will be one of those weeks where it is firm, hot and fast," he said. "You have to be patient enough to know there will be six pins you can go at, six you can kind of play it safe and six you have to stay completely away from.
"It gets harder and harder to stay patient the older you get especially if you haven't had any results. Results don't come from forcing it and you just have to get your head around that."
Flanagan has been hampered by a wrist injury in the past two months and is yet to lock in a program for the next year.
"I have been doing a lot of rehab on that which is a little bit stressful because it is the same thing I had before I had the surgery [in 2014]," he said. "I have been able to get through on anti inflammatories. I will play these next two events, go home have Christmas, enjoy what is coming and then reassess. It is getting a lot more expensive than it used to be and when you are not making as much money it gets hard.
"I'm still hopeful and know I am good enough to play. It is a matter of the body holding up and mentally staying with it."