Thursday, September 01, 2011



England's Nick Dougherty finally had something to smile about this season when he began the Omega European Masters with an eight under par 63 at Crans-sur-Sierre.
In a nightmare slump to 791st in the Official World Golf Ranking the 29 year old has not made a single halfway cut since the UBS Hong Kong Open last November.
But after a horror run of 21 early exits in a row - the same number Justin Rose had at the start of his professional career - Dougherty leads by two in Switzerland.
And the three-time European Tour winner does so against a field that includes Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer - three of the game's top six.
"It's quite a bounce-back," said Dougherty when interviewed afterwards by his golf presenter wife Diana.
"I do like to be a little bit dramatic when I do everything, as you well know!
"It's been tough coming home and having to deal with constant disappointment and I'm really, really proud of how I played.
"It feels great, obviously. I've not had a lot to be happy about and you've had to take the brunt of it and put up with me.
"It was difficult to find positives because there was nothing going my way, but today was super. My short game's been great all year, but I drove it much better and hit some quality iron shots.
"I felt something click at Gleneagles last week (he missed the cut by one after a second round 69) and I also 'manned up' - instead of feeling sorry for myself and the world's against me I fought for it."
Dougherty covered the back nine first in a four under 31, then added further birdies at the first, third, seventh and long ninth - the last of them when his pitch spun back to four feet after he had carved his second shot onto the adjoining 18th fairway.
“I don’t need to go into too much detail how bad it has been – it’s fairly evident when you look at the scores,” he added. “It’s been really un-pleasurable to play golf. It’s been the bane of my life for two years.
“It’s been difficult and I’ve had to pick myself up but I am good at that. Every week I missed the cut I still turned up the next week feeling that would be the week and that takes a lot of strength.
“A lot of credit has to go to my coach Stuart Morgan. He’s not your regular coach. He doesn’t stand there and teach me positions. He’s done a lot of mental work with me and helped me understand myself better. I had to face up to a few facts so it’s not been comfortable.”
Asked in his post-round press conference what the goal was for Friday he added: “First, to see you guys. How long has it been since I sat here. I feel good about what I’ve done. I feel conscious that I want to play well again.
“I’ve got work to even keep a Tour card but that’s not my goal. My goal is to win again and I firmly believe I will with the work I’ve done. Today was physical proof. I’m going to enjoy it though.
“Tomorrow I’ll play aggressively again. If it comes unstuck it comes unstuck but it won’t be through fear. I’m going to go out there and play aggressive and express myself on the golf course.
“She’s [Diana] great. She has a sporting background. Her cousin is [former England rugby star] Will Greenwood and her whole family know sporting people. She’s a rock for me. It is hard for her. I can’t pretend I’ve been coming home happy. I can’t walk in and say it’s alright, just another missed cut.
“Di was always there to pick me up and remind me who I am. She’s a strong woman and I admire greatly for her drive and ambition and her career and it helps pull me along.
“It’s fairly obvious my game started to deteriorate after my mum passed away. If it was just a swing problem I can fix that but you think something has disappeared from you since my mum’s gone. You think I just don’t want it any more and she had to remind me that was a load of rubbish. The constant support of being there and allowing me to vent and be angry and kick the bed – all that sort of stuff. Just to remind me of who I am and what I’ve done before.
“It’s quite touching. Monty goes out of his way to see me. Thomas Björn who has been a good friend. Everyone has been great. The caddies. You guys. It’s really touching and it really means a lot when everyone pulls for you. Nick Faldo has a few times.”
Kaymer and McIlroy had set the morning pace with six under 65s, while Westwood was alongside them until he closed with two bogeys.
The World Number Two, after a family holiday in Barbados, had come back brilliantly from a double bogey on the second, making eagle twos on the driveable fifth and seventh.
It was McIlroy's first tournament since he injured himself hitting a tree root at the US PGA Championship.
"My arm's nearly back to 100 per cent," he said after making five birdies in his last eight holes. "I had a good bit of treatment on it and rested it.
"I kept my eye in last week, but it was nice to get back on the course and feel the competitive juices again."
Kaymer has fallen from top of the Official World Golf Ranking to fifth since May, but looked much more like his old self and, in stark contrast to Westwood, finished with back-to-back birdies.
He and McIlroy share second place with England's Gary Boyd and Korean Lee Sung, while Open Champion Darren Clarke was among those alongside Westwood four behind.
Westwood made a start full of drama. He double-bogeyed the second, but played the next five in a remarkable six under.
After a birdie at the third he holed for eagle on the fifth, birdied the next and followed that with another eagle two at the seventh - like the fifth a driveable par four.



Par 71
63 Nick Dougherty (England)
65 Martin Kaymer (Germany), Rory McIlroy (N Ireland), Sung Lee (S Korea), Gary Boyd (England).

68 David Drysdale (T14)
69 Gary Orr, Paul Lawrie (T24)
70 George Murray, Stephen Gallacher, Richie Ramsay (T40)
73 Steven O'Hara (T106).
74 Peter Whiteford (T122)
75 Scott Jamieson, Marc Warren (T135)
76 Colin Montgomerie (T144).



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