While PGA Tour members are competing in the second leg of the FedExCup playoffs at the Deutsche Bank Championship, most of Europe’s best are playing in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland. US Open winner Rory McIlroy fired a two-under 69 on Friday to join Irish Open champ Simon Dyson, Gary Boyd and Jamie Donaldson for a share of the lead at the halfway mark with a 36-hole total of eight-under.
But perhaps the best feel-good story of the week so far is Nick Dougherty, who had missed 21 cuts in a row dating back to last November. After opening with a 63, the Englishman shot a ho-hum 72. Though he dropped to fifth place, he’s just a shot off the pace and glad to be in position to revive his career.
Dougherty admitted to the EuropeanTour.com website: “I had two things in my head – the tournament and getting the monkey of not making a cut off my back. I didn’t play as well and I had a few iffy breaks, but I suppose you get what you deserve.
“Hopefully I can play with a bit more flair and flamboyance tomorrow. It was a little cagey.”
Dougherty credits his wife Di Stewart, Sky Sport presenter whom he wed on New Year’s Eve, for providing him with emotional support. Via the UK’s Telegraph:
“Di’s a rock for me,” Dougherty acknowledged. “I can’t pretend that I’ve been happy. I can’t walk in the door and say, ‘Oh, all right, it’s just another missed cut.’ Di was always there to pick me up and remind me who I am.”
But the soothing counsel of Stewart, a face of Sky’s European golf coverage since 2007, helped revive him. A talented player herself, having competed at the Dunhill Links, she knew instinctively the most sensitive wisdom to impart.
“It’s quite emotional,” Dougherty said, as he reflected on how his game began to fall apart after his mother, Ennis, died in 2008 from a heart attack aged 61. “You can’t go to somebody and say, ‘Don’t worry, next week will be fine.’ Di would have to sit with me at times when I’ve said, ‘That’s it, I’m done, I can’t do it any more.
“For some reason it has gone and I can’t find my way back.’ My game started to deteriorate after my mum passed away. I would say, ‘Perhaps something has disappeared since mum has gone. I just don’t want it as badly any more.’ Di had to keep reminding me that this was rubbish.
“She allowed me to vent, to be angry, to kick the bed. She reminded me of what I’ve done before, what I’m capable of doing, and where I want to go.”
Meanwhile, McIlroy, who earlier in the week estimated a win would vault him to No. 3 in the world, missed a four-foot birdie putt on 18 for the outright lead.
“I really wanted to make that to get into the lead on my own,” he said. “All in all, I’m tied for the lead and it’s not a bad position to be in.”
McIlroy felt he could have scored even better, acknowledging his frustration going into the back nine. He also tactfully took a little dig at the greens, saying, “There’s been a lot of traffic on (the greens). You start becoming a little tentative.”
2010 PGA champion and world no. 5 Martin Kaymer also wasn’t happy with the greens. “Sixteen was a joke,” he said, referring to the putting surfaces. “The greens have become really bad in the afternoon. There are a lot of other guys who got stuck at seven or eight under.”
(AP Photo/Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott)