Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 20 News List

UK's Nick Dougherty tames Oakmont to lead US Open

AFP , OAKMONT, PENNSYLVANIA

Nick Dougherty of the UK putts during the first round of the 107th US Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club on Thursday in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. Dougherty leads by a stroke after the first round.

PHOTO: AFP

Nick Dougherty tamed the notorious Oakmont Country Club course on Thursday with a two-under-par 68 to take a one-shot lead in the opening round of the US Open.

Dougherty's round was also good for a three-shot cushion over world No. 1 Tiger Woods and defending champion Geoff Ogilvy in the second major championship of the year.

The 25-year-old from Liverpool benefitted from his early start, as a Wednesday evening thunderstorm had rendered Oakmont's greens a trifle less treacherous.

But he also did well to keep his cool after back-to-back bogeys on the front nine, posting three birdies without dropping a shot coming home.

"I'm delighted," said Dougherty, who booked his ticket to the US with a win in the 36-hole sectional qualifying at Walton heath.

"The US Open is my favorite tournament to play in," said Dougherty, who is playing in his third US championship.

That's a contrast to many players, who dislike the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the US championship.

"I love the fun," he said. "Americans are noisier than us and I like that. I love the atmosphere, the way the tournament is run, I love how tough the course is."

"The US Open is brutal," he said. "It tests every aspect of your game and mentally as well."

Dougherty was already full of confidence coming in.

While he has yet to add to his lone European tour title -- which came in 2005 at Singapore -- Dougherty has been in the hunt often this year as he works with new coach Damien Taylor.

He also said that his struggles last year -- when a mid-season slump doomed his Ryder Cup hopes and saw him tumble out of the top 100 in the world rankings -- have made him a better golfer.

"You learn a lot," he said. "I think I've come on a lot since then and it's good."

Dougherty said he didn't hit the ball as well has he had done recently, but still managed to score.

"My short game was great and my course discipline was superb as well," he said.

Also see story:
Wrist brace carries Mickelson through first round of US Open in Pennsylvania

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