Friday, June 15, 2007

Nick who?

Got no clue who Nick Dougherty, your first-round leader in the U.S. Open, is? Join the crowd.

He's 25, good-looking and apparently earned a rep on the Euro Tour for burning the candle at both ends.

Here's a link to his bio in the Euro Tour media guide.
Here's are highlights from his post-round interview Thursday:
USGA: We are now joined by Nick Dougherty with a round of 2-under par 68 in the first round. Maybe you could start us with some comments about your round and the playing conditions this morning.
NICK DOUGHERTY: Yeah, I think the course is -- I hate saying it, easy; especially if a USGA official picks up on that. But I think we had it as good as it could be this morning with obviously that thunderstorm yesterday, softened it up nicely. Certainly makes it somewhat easier because you can stop the ball now by the holes whereas if they were firm, which they were doing gradually through the week, firming up, some of the pin positions would be extremely difficult. So it's still frightfully tough out there so certainly I think the morning players have had the better half of it, especially if it doesn't rain again for the rest of the tournament. As far as how I played I'm delighted with that. 68, I think it's the first under par round in a major. You know, I didn't actually play that well tee-to-green, but obviously I was hitting it in the right places when I missed. I never really short-sided myself all day, which is great. And my short game is red hot as it has been recently. I putted solid. I think that's shown in the stats of the back nine, 11 putts or something on the back side which always helps. So in all, I'm delighted. That's a great start.
Q. Could you talk about the expectations you had coming into this tournament?
NICK DOUGHERTY: I think -- I'm playing really well at the moment. My golf is in great shape. But this year it has been disappointing in a lot of ways for me. I've had -- I've led I think six tournaments of the 14 I've played at some stage. A few of them very near to the end. And I haven't finished one off which has been extremely disappointing to me. It does also show that I'm playing very consistently. So I was very much looking forward to playing. I was very happy to get through the qualifying, you know, because I just -- I just really wanted to see how I do coming in, playing a major when I'm on my game, which I am at the moment. The first five, maybe not including Pinehurst, but the other four I've played, I've been really struggling and that's the worst way you can come into a major, not playing well and the confidence is low. At the moment I'm still working on bits and bobs but my confidence is high. I think Tiger is the one who shows it best; when he's not playing well he has such belief in himself he turns a 76 into a 71 or 72. That's what happens when your confidence is up. I expected to play well this week. I expected to think about my round or think about my game and have the right attitude to it, which I've achieved today and hopefully will do for the rest of the week.
Q. Out there today, I noticed a lot of competitors were looking a bit sort of grim and concerned. Were you in quite a cheerful party?
NICK DOUGHERTY: I'm always cheerful, Lewine, you know that. (Smiling) I didn't know Trip, he's a lovely fella, I've seen him on U.S. Amateurs on the TV before. And Ricky (Barnes), I know quite well, I played with him in Loch Lomond on our tour a couple of years ago. It's nice being out with the young guns. Those guys, they can shift it, as well. So I'm not used to hitting into greens first but spent most of the day doing that. But we had fun. I think you have to be a bit upbeat at these events, because it's just so much disappointment, because it's so difficult. You are going to have a lot of letdowns, a lot of disappointments, lots of mistakes. So I think you have to almost kind of just roll with it, and I think I did that quite well today.
Q. Has Nick Faldo talked to you about this course hole-by-hole? Has he given you any specific instructions or gotten you psyched for this? You've said it's such a privilege to have worked with him and so forth.
NICK DOUGHERTY: Unfortunately I don't get to see Nick much anymore. I mean obviously he works over here for the TV. I haven't actually seen him this week. You know, it might have been a nice thing to do. I'm a firm believer, though, that as much as I would love to achieve what Nick has in the game, I mean, goodness gracious, six major championships, unfortunately I play like Nick Dougherty right now. Is he here this week, Faldo, commentating? If he is I'm catch up with him. It's a shame I don't get to see him anywhere near as much as I would like to.
Q. For those of us who don't get to see you every week, can you give us more of the background on the influence Faldo has had on you and your career.
NICK DOUGHERTY: Yeah, he started looking -- well, I won his tournament he setup in the U.K. for the Faldo Junior Series, it was called. I won three out of the four I played in of that. Part of the prize was getting to play a round of golf with him, and he gave me some private lessons, which you can imagine is like a dream come true. For a British golfer, Nick Faldo, he's Tiger Woods for us, especially back then as well. I started playing quite well, won quite a lot of tournaments in successes and the relationship built. And he took me out with him to meet Sam Snead -- he wanted me to meet Sam Snead, and he's taken me on quite a few trips. I've been very, very privileged. He's given me so much help, tuition, guidance. What more could you want from a guy that's achieved as much as he has? It's phenomenal. As a British player, he's the most successful British golfer ever without a doubt.
Q. You used the word "easy" and "U.S. Open" in the same sentence.
NICK DOUGHERTY: You picked up on that -- (laughing).
Q. Do you think that's completely attributable to the rain yesterday, or was the difficulty of the course overstated to some extent coming into this?
NICK DOUGHERTY: No, absolutely not. Goodness, I shouldn't have said that. No, absolutely not. The course is barbaric. (Laughter) It is. I wasn't -- I think that's the funny thing about these events. It doesn't matter how you're playing. You're always a little bit weird that if you have an off day you're going to embarrass yourself which you can do around these golf courses. I think the thunderstorm made it easier than it otherwise would have been because it softened the greens a bit and the pins are tricky like they always are at the U.S. Opens. But these are soft greens in from I've seen in my limited knowledge of U.S. Open golf, in the last two years, this is quite soft in the moment. I'm sure the USGA will be hoping for sunshine to dry this out and I'm sure come Sunday it will be nice and crusty and firm and it will be extremely difficult.
Q. This doesn't really have anything to do with the tournament, but it said in the player's guide that your dad sold Paul McCartney's guitar or something? Curious if there's a story behind that, and if you would win the Open, would you feel compelled to buy it back?
NICK DOUGHERTY: Not really, no. (Laughter). Yeah, he did. He bought me -- I don't know why he did it. It's his own fault. Can you imagine me asking for a flute? (Laughter). His general idea was because I was young at the time, he said, "When you're on Tour, it will entertain you, to be able to sit in your room and play the flute." You can imagine it, can't you? It's a great idea. TGI Friday's is much more fun. It's something he got me when I was young, it was a lovely flute and what-have-you, and I don't play it anymore. My brother actually bought him -- the reason he got one in the first place is because he knew Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles. I feel kind of bad. Yeah, you win some, you lose some, don't you. I'll get him something better. If I win this, I'll buy him something nice, a house or something.
Q. Do days like this vindicate your decision to cut down on maybe some of the off-course fun, non-flute-related fun?
NICK DOUGHERTY: Yeah, certainly. Those days are long gone to be honest. I like to think that people who know me as of the last couple of years think of me as one of the most professional players they know. I prepare as well as anyone. I train. I do everything the right way. I strive for perfection and back in the day, that wasn't the case, but I mean, it's been two years of evidence that this was the right thing to do. When I won in 2005, you know, that was not long after I decided to change my lifestyle. But, you know, I was a young man, and young men have fun. I don't regret it. Because now I know the right way to run my life and how to go about my professional career to get the most out of it because I know whatnot to do. That was diplomatic, wasn't it.
Q. Assuming your lead does hold today, how do you avoid tonight obsessing that you have the lead at the U.S. Open after the first round?
NICK DOUGHERTY: Well I'm just going to go back and hopefully if I can just cling on now for the next 54 holes, I'll do it. (Laughter). Certainly, someone asked me this just before, that's one of my letdowns, this year the reason I haven't won is that I'm really good at going forwards. I'm not very good at defending. I'm not good on the back foot. I can't kind prod it around. It's important for me to go out there and just keep going. I think it will help me the fact that it's such a big thing, the U.S. Open. So me leading now, it means a lot to be leading the U.S. Open, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to win the U.S. Open or, wow, he's in front so he should cling on like Tiger Woods. I can just go about my business as usual and I'm pleased with the start today. I believe I'm a good enough golfer to contend in majors whether it's now or this year or down the line. I wants to be one of those European and British players media look at to fly the flag for us in these tournaments because we've had a drought recently and hopefully it will be starting from this week.

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