Nicks Knack

By Brian HewittJune 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- Phil grimaced in the afternoon. It was Oakmont. Golfing root canal. His injured left wrist was sore. He shot 74.
 
Tiger struggled at times in the morning. The live mikes picked up a bit of blue language during his hard-earned 71. It was the U.S. Open.
 
All of which followed the script to the letter.
 
Until Nick Dougherty came along.
 
The course is, I hate saying it, easy, Nick Dougherty said.
 
The U.S. Open is my favorite tournament to play, Nick Dougherty said.
 
I love the fun, Nick Dougherty said. You Americans are noisier than us and I like that. I love the atmosphere, the way the tournament is run.
 
Nick Dougherty is a 25-year-old Brit who was born in Liverpool, the same city that brought us the Beatles. He is the 118th ranked player in the world. He is the 10th ranked Englishman in the world.
 
And after 18 holes he is leading the 107th United States Open Championship.
 
This is because he shot 2-under par 68. And that was mainly because he needed just 32 shots on the back nine and just 27 putts on a day where feared Oakmont turned up soft early because of a late Wednesday rain.
 
Hopefully if I can just cling on now for the next 54 holes, Ill do it, Nick Dougherty said, winking all the way.
 
Dougherty knows there are a million golfing miles to go this week. He knows he still has the reputation for being a bit of a party boy. He protests the latter.
 
Those days are gone to be honest, he insisted Thursday after his round provided him with a one-shot lead over Angel Cabrera. I prepare as well as anyone. I train. I do everything the right way.
 
The thing hes doing best right now is not taking himself or the championship or the golf course too seriously.
 
Once upon a time Nick Doughertys father bought his son a flute. His general idea, said Nick, was because I was young at the time.he said when youre on Tour, it will entertain you, to be able to sit in your room and play the flute.
 
That wasnt happening.
 
TGI Fridays is much more fun, Nick Dougherty said.
 
History tells us that the Nick Doughertys of the world shoot 78 in the second round of the U.S. Open and disappear quietly and quickly from the leaderboard.
 
But Thursday at Oakmont he was the fresh face with the insouciant attitude and the red hot short game. And he was happy to tell his story if you were willing to listen.
 
My mom has been a housewife now for about'well, for as long as dad told her to be, about 20-odd years now, he said.
 
Dad is a former car salesman who transitioned into property which is what they call real estate in England. Nick Doughertys brother is a corporate lawyer in New York.
 
Nick Doughertys idol is Nick Faldo. One of his teachers is David Leadbetter. Both are Englishman. Dougherty was supposed to make the European Ryder Cup team last year but his game shorted out at the wrong time.
 
Last year he shot 78-75 at Winged Foot and missed the cut at that U.S. Open. The year before that he made the cut at the Pinehurst U.S. Open and left the place absolutely enchanted.
 
Pinehurst is the most special week Ive ever had on the golf course and this here (Oakmont) is fabulous, he said.
 
It was almost as if Nick Dougherty was drinking in a different air than everybody else in the field Thursday. The most serious he got was when he was pressed about the next three days.
 
I believe Im a good enough golfer to contend in majors whether its now or this year or down the line, he said. I want to be one of those European and British players the media look at to fly the flag for us in these tournaments because weve had a drought recently.
 
Drought, indeed. No European has won a major in this century. And no European has won the U.S. Open since Englishman Tony Jacklin conquered Hazeltine in 1970.
 
Nick Dougherty is a still a long, long shot. Woods is still only three behind. But the longer Nick Dougherty hangs around the leader board the more refreshing that leaderboard will be.
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.