Dougherty delivers


Last updated at 11:00 26 May 2006

No tournament taking place in England could ask for a better first-round leaderboard than the after the opening day of the BMW Championship at Wentworth.

Luke Donald, Nick Dougherty and Paul Casey all shot 67 to set the pace alongside the little-known South African Andrew McLardy. British golf has been crying out for so long for someone with the X-factor. Was this the day when the X-men arrived?

With David Howell scoring 68 and three more Englishman and Welshman Jamie Donaldson also breaking 70, it was certainly a day that underlined there is no shortage of talent.

Dougherty's 67 amounted to something of a guilty pleasure. When it was over, the Scouser couldn't stop thanking his father, Roger, who first dragged him on to a municipal in a rough part of Liverpool as a boy. Then he explained it was a bit of payback.

He said: "I'm living in Surrey now. We've got this two-tier garage and when you park your car in it you move it up and down. My dad drove 250 miles to stay with us and I told him to park his car in it, that his Mercedes would fit.

"Now he's got to get a new one, because he crushed it trying to get it in the garage. I was at the European Tour's annual dinner when I got the call."

Dougherty is potentially the man who will turn a new generation on to golf in this country. He has always had the look, the talent and the gift of the gab. Now ambition is fast catching up.

He once admitted he blew his first half-million on late nights and fancy gifts. Just 24 last Wednesday, he has spent the past 18 months dedicating himself to his craft.

Indeed, he might have gone too far the other way, for he believes he has tailed off after a promising start to the year because he has been striving too hard.

"I'm an emotional person and it's been very frustrating recently," he said. "You throw clubs, kick bags and people look at you and wonder why you can be so upset when you have the best job in the world.

"And they're right, but I'm so desperate to be the best player I can be and I'm not happy walking away from tournaments having won 15 or 20 grand.

"The key is not trying too hard down the stretch, which I've got to learn. You watch players like Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. They don't walk twice as fast when they hit it in the trees, worrying where the ball is, because it is where it is. But learning that is far easier said than done."

Are the courses easier than in America?

Like Dougherty, Casey made his score on the back nine, finishing birdie, eagle to continue the stretch of consistent form that has seen him contend for the last two weeks and move back into the all-important world top 50.

Donald, by contrast, was precise from first to last. He never missed a green all day, but thought part of the reason might have been a course set-up not as difficult as you would find in America.

It is a theme expressed by a number of players in the past, like Colin Montgomerie and Paul McGinley, who believe it a contributory factor as to why Europeans don't win major championships anymore.

Donald agreed, saying: "They have made all these changes to Wentworth, but the set-up was very cautious, which negated some of them. We were playing off the front of some tees and I'd certainly like to see them pushed back.

"I was thinking on the 18th that in Europe the fairways are more generous, the rough isn't as thick and the pins not tucked away as much as in America. Here you can get away with things that you wouldn't at a US Open and it is part of the reason we haven't been successful in majors."

Whether any will be successful in this event remains a moot point as well, for all the success of the opening day. Defending champion Angel Cabrera shot 68, while Els was content with an opening 69.

Goosen, at No 3 the highest ranked player in the world competing, carded a 70.

As for the other Englishmen to live up to Els's verdict that a below-70 round was on offer to anyone playing 'properly,' Ian Poulter and Kenny Ferrie scored 69s, while the most surprising by a long chalk to land on that mark was a 28-year-old assistant pro from Beverley called John Wells.

His claim to fame is that he is the reigning World Ice Golf champion. Given that event takes place in blizzards and the players only play nine holes at a time in order to warm up again, perhaps it is not surprising he found the West Course on a sunlit, windless day a straightforward proposition.

Former Open champion Paul Lawrie also shot 69, while Darren Clarke's 73 included a penalty stroke at the 13th that arose because he was given a wrong ruling by a referee who checked it later with the chief referee.

In the light of Clarke's wonderful act of sportsmanship in Ireland on Monday, you have to conclude it's a daft game at times.

LEADER BOARD 67 — A McLardy (SA), N Dougherty, L Donald, P Casey 68 — Peter Lawrie, A Cabrera (Arg), D Howell, R Jacquelin (Fra) 69 — J Donaldson, J Wells, I Poulter, E Els (SA), KFerrie, Paul Lawrie, GHouston, JMOlazabal (Sp), F Delamontagne (F), P Price, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 — S Kjeldsen (Den), R Green (A), J M Lara (Sp), N Colsaerts (Bel), M Brier (Aut), N Fasth (Swe), T Immelman (SA), R Goosen (SA), S Hansen (Den), S Khan, D Charlton, M Kirk (SA) 71 — R Fisher, G McDowell, M A Jimenez (Sp), MLafeber (Hol), IWoosnam, GStorm, JBackstrom (Swe), A Forsyth, S Edwards, S Thornton, J-F Lima (Por), A Coltart, T Wiratchant (Tha), G Orr, A Wall, P Broadhurst, C Schwartzel (SA), S Gallacher, S Webster, C Cevaer (F), J Randhawa (Ind), M Foster, S Jeppesen (Swe) 72 — C Doak, P Gustafsson (Swe), K Stadler (US), P Harrington, M Campbell (NZ), M Tunnicliff, D Lynn, E Canonica (It), M Fraser (A), G Havret (F), P Archer, B Barham, N O'Hern (A), B Rumford (A), D Prosser, C Suneson (Sp) 73 — G Murphy, S Hamill, C Montgomerie, R Sterne (SA), J M Singh (Ind), R Bland, D Carter, D Clarke, H Stenson (Swe), A Scott (A), G Fernandez-Castano (Sp), S Dyson, C Hanell (Swe), G Brand Jnr, I Garbutt 74 — P O'Malley (A), B Lane, T Bjorn (Den), C Rocca (It), P Hedblom (Swe), M Lundberg (Swe), J Kingston (SA), R Coles, M A Martin (Sp), A Butterfield, T Jaidee (Tha), A Hansen (Den), J Haeggman (Swe), S Dodd, M Roe, W Ormsby (A), P Fowler (A) 75 — S Wakefield, B Dredge, J van de Velde (F), Stuart Little, P Golding, G Marks, J Spence, R-J Derksen (Hol), G Evans, F Widmark (Swe) 76 — S Lyle, J Bickerton, F Molinari (It), I Ellis, D Park, J-F Lucquin (F), P Bagshaw, M Erlandsson (Swe), J Edfors (Swe), R Gonzalez (Arg), A Oldcorn, I Garrido (Sp), O Wilson 77 — B Curtis (US), B Davis, J Cheetham, G Emerson, S Henderson, S O'Hara, M Warren, M Eliasson (Swe), C Kelly, J Lomas, J Sandelin (Swe), A Tadini (It), B McGovern 78 — A Marshall, M Olander (Swe), J Langmead, P Page, L Thompson, B Willman 79 — R Finch, D McGrane, M Cayeux (Zim), J-F Remesy (F), M Mamat (Sin), M Tottey 80 — Sam Little 81 — S Bennett, M Siem (G) 83 — P Hanson (Swe) Ret: D McGrane, P Hedblom (Swe), M Siem (G)

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