Exclusive: Nick Dougherty Q&A
He’s mentored by Nick Faldo, popular with his fellow pros and adored by the ladies. We’ve been talking to Nick Dougherty.
It’s hard to believe but Nick Dougherty hasn’t always been good-looking and popular.
Ahead of the 2006 Open Championship in his home city of Liverpool, he was interviewed by The Independent and recalled a difficult period when his family moved from Merseyside to Blackburn.
“I was a little fat kid with a side-parting,” he explained, “a bit of a swot who liked golf. The other kids were cruel and they hated Scousers: ‘Watch your hubcaps, Podger’s around.'”
Desperate for ammunition in his battle against the big mouths, Dougherty transferred his footballing allegiance from Liverpool to Manchester United because they were the only credible opponents of the then powerful Blackburn Rovers team.
But much more has changed since then – ‘Podger’ has become one of the best golfers in the world, wears good clothes, has trendy hair and, most striking of all, a wide and open smile.
That big grin reflects a geniality that endears him to his fellow players, the press and the galleries.
Not least because there have been times when his good nature has been tested in the public eye only to pass with flying colours every time.
His first challenge came when he turned pro at the age of 19 and was burdened with “the next big thing” tag.
He settled quickly enough to win Rookie of the Year in 2002, but his maiden win refused to come and yet, if the issue was raised, he never hid from addressing the gap in his CV.
An added pressure in his early professional career came as a consequence of his proximity to Nick Faldo – he was the first graduate of the Faldo Junior Series and was a well-publicised protégé of the six-time major winner.
Some would have wilted under the weight of expectancy. Others might have become the subject of jealous whispers from other players.
But Dougherty remained popular with his colleagues and few wins were as popular as his maiden victory at Singapore in 2005 – or his second title in the Dunhill Links Trophy at St Andrew’s in 2007.
14 months ago Dougherty’s mother Ennis died of a heart attack and he was devastated. When he opened with a 68 to lie second in the recent China Open he described it as “a ray of sunshine in what has been quite a bleak year”.
Reflecting on those 12 months he said: “The team of guys I have around me are phenomenal. It’s a real testament to my caddy. He’s had huge success and a lot of people would have walked away seeing how bad I was struggling but he’s stood by me.”
Dougherty might be right, but it’s says as much about his own character that so many people were willing to stay patiently supportive.
His close team, his fellow pros and the galleries would love nothing more than for him to win again soon and a return to Wentworth might provide inspiration – he certainly has plenty of positives to work on.
He can sleep in his own bed all week because soon after winning in St Andrew’s two years ago he bought a house in Sunningdale – he even re-named it ‘Dunhill’ to honour the victory!
He also has course form – both 2006 and 2007 saw him enter the final round in a strong position. In 2006 he even said at the halfway stage: “I dreamt I had won it last night and was very disappointed when I woke up.”
Last week, amongst the wind, rain and Irish excitement, Dougherty made the top five for the first time since last summer so his form is clearly on an upward curve.
Perhaps this year the dream can come true.
We sat down with Nick earlier in the year and asked him a few questions.
Favourite food: Thai
Favourite TV show: King of Queens (a US show)
Favourite film: Scent of a Woman
What’s on your iPod?: Everything! From Oasis to Coldplay to Sarah Brightman to Guns and Roses!
Do you follow the English Premier League and, if so, do you have favourite team/player(s): Man Utd and Ryan Giggs
Favourite golf course: Augusta National
Favourite golf course designer: Pete Dye
Event you’d most like to win you haven’t won yet: The Masters
Which major is your game best suited to? The Masters!
Best round ever played? Second round at the 08 Masters (Nick shot 69 to move through the field into 13th place).
Worst round ever played? The last round of the Italian Open in ’07.
Did you see the clips of Barack Obama playing golf on YouTube? Has he got potential? Sorry I haven’t seen it!
Name a player to watch in 2009: Oli Wilson
Favourite club in the bag: Callaway Diablo Hybrid
Best friend in golf: Simon Dyson
Dream four-ball: Halle Berry, Tiger, Mum and Dad
Winner 2005 Caltex Masters
Winner 2007 Dunhill Links Championship
Three-time runner-up in the Scandinavian Masters
Member of the victorious GB&I Walker Cup team in 2001
In the bag:
Driver – Callaway FT-9
Fairway woods – Callaway Big Bertha Diablo & Callaway X
Hybrid – Callaway Diablo Hybrid
Irons – Callaway X-forged ’09
Putter – Odyssey White Hot
Ball – Callaway Tour IX
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