|Dougherty Claims Maiden Victory in Style|
It might have been a little closer than the eventual five shot winning margin suggests, but the one fact which is irrefutable is that England’s Nick Dougherty produced a stunning performance and a mature one beyond his years to win his maiden European Tour title in the Caltex Masters, presented by Carlsberg, Singapore 2005.
In the end, the 22 year old thrilled the large and enthusiastic galleries at the Laguna National Golf & Country Club with a final round 67 for an 18 under par total of 270, eventually finishing out of sight of the joint runners up, Maarten Lafeber of The Netherlands who came with a late charge, and defending champion Colin Montgomerie of Scotland who, pushed the young Englishman the hardest but, in the end, could not overhaul him.
Denmark’s Thomas Björn, who completed the showpiece final three ball with Dougherty and Montgomerie, took fourth place on 11 under par 277 after his closing 72, but the day and the week belonged to Dougherty who reaped the ultimate reward for the decision to turn his back on his much-publicised excesses of youth and concentrate on working hard to enhance the obvious natural talent he possesses for the game.
“I am still a little shellshocked but it was picture perfect I suppose,” said Dougherty who moves to second on The European Tour Order of Merit with €163,148 (£113,603). “To beat Monty and Thomas on a tough course with a fantastic crowd there and to win by five shots, that is really something special.
“It is something I have worked hard for. We’ve talked before about things I’ve done wrong, well here’s one I’ve done right. I feel like I’ve earned this and hopefully it is a sign of many great things to come.”
A recognised protégé of the Nick Faldo Junior Series, Dougherty revealed he had had a good luck text message on his mobile phone from the six time Major Champion before he set off for the final round, in between good luck calls from his father and his grandmother.
“He (Nick) just told me to visualise each shot, commit to each shot and be determined with every action I take,” said Dougherty. “His whole thing was staying in the moment with my own golf game.
“I think he was well aware that it would be easy to get carried away, especially if Monty or Thomas had thrown a few birdies at me. But it felt great and even if it had been a blank text, for Nick to text me and know he was keeping an eye on me was a nice feeling.”
Starting the day two shots clear of the exalted Ryder Cup duo, Dougherty remained in front at the turn with his only serious threat looking to come from Montgomerie after Björn had fallen back with double bogey seven at the second.
The Dane showed typical tenacity to try and battle back into contention with three birdies in four holes from the turn but when he found the water from the tee at the short 17th to make another double bogey, his chances of finishing in the top three sunk with his ball.
It left a virtual match play situation featuring Dougherty and Montgomerie and when the 28 time winner on The European Tour International Schedule birdied the 15th to reduce the Englishman’s lead to only one shot, it looked like experience might win the day.
That feeling was enhanced when Dougherty hit his worst tee shot of the day at the 16th, pulling a drive into the fairway bunker as Montgomerie launched the perfect drive down the centre of the fairway.
If it looked like advantage Montgomerie, the situation was dramatically turned on its head thanks to the Rules of Golf. Because of the large wooden sleepers in the face of the bunker Dougherty was allowed a free drop up on top out of the trap from where he smashed an superb approach to three feet from the pin.
Had he been in the sand, he would not have been allowed the drop but because his ball had skirted through the bunker and come to rest on the grass in front of the sleepers, European Tour Chief Referee John Paramor informed Dougherty that he was allowed to take the drop under a local rule, which had been fully endorsed by the European Tour officials when they set out the course.
Understandably, Montgomerie was less than amused with the stroke of good fortune for his opponent and when he found the green but three putted for a bogey five before Dougherty rolled in his three footer for birdie, his misery was complete.
Deflated, the Scot found more bad luck when his tee shot on the 17th caught the side of the greenside trap and, after doing his best to escape, had to pitch in from the side of the green to save par. His misfortune continued at the last when his drive landed in a fairway divot from where he mishit his approach shot on the way to a bogey five.
“The ruling was the turning point,” said Montgomerie who eventually carded 70 for a 13 under par total of 275. “I was one behind and in the middle of the fairway and he is in the bunker left, up the face of the bunker. Next minute you know he’s three feet away.
“I mean that’s the rules I suppose. It is a weird sort of thing where it is all planked off, it is weird that way but those are the rules and you have to play by them. Then I catch a horrendous lie on the 17th where if you hit a thousand balls from that tee you are never going to get in that position and then on the 18th I’m in the middle of a divot and I duff it. I mean it is almost unbelievable.
“It was never was going to be my day and when the ruling happened on the 16th I knew that was going to be the case. When you have a day, you have a day and it was Nick’s day today. He played well. He attacked the pins when he had to attack the pins and did very well to play like that to win his first tournament, so good luck to him.”
While Montgomerie was disappointed to finish second, Lafeber was delighted as it gave final vindication that he was over the elbow problems which marred his 2004 season. Indeed, had in not been for a double bogey six at the ninth, the Dutchman might have put more pressure on Dougherty.
“I am delighted with my form, really pleased,” he said. “I only hit really one bad shot on the ninth, it came out of nothing. But I knew I had to shoot probably 66 or something to have a chance with those guys playing well
“But I fought back well after the double and I played lovely on the back nine, I just kept believing in myself, trying to make a few birdies and get it to 13 or 14 and you never know what happens on the last few holes.
“But I was just really glad that I am fit again and I am not playing with any pain any more. Last year I was out for six months but I have been working with a doctor in America for the last couple of weeks and that has been a big relief and on the course I felt relaxed. I was really enjoying it and to finish with two birdies was great.”
By courtesy of www.europeantour.com