Dougherty halts antics, makes difficult course look easy with 2-under
OAKMONT, Pa. – Nick Dougherty was young, rich and good-looking, and he took full advantage of it.
He golfed a little and partied a lot, blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cities across Europe. His night-owl antics were so well-known he was dubbed “George,” as in soccer player George Best, a tabloid staple for his carousing.
Those days, though, are long gone. Not only has the 25-year-old Englishman cleaned up his act, he’s playing like a phenom again. While the rest of the field staggered through the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday, Dougherty made it look easy with a 2-under 68. He and Angel Cabrera, who was one stroke back, were the only players to break par.
“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,” said Dougherty, whose other nickname is “Little Nick,” after mentor Nick Faldo. “I strive for perfection, and back in the day, that wasn’t the case.
While Britain’s Luke Donald and Justin Rose are well-known to U.S. golf fans, Dougherty doesn’t have nearly the same name recognition. But he just might be the best of the bunch.
Dougherty took 11 putts on the back nine Thursday. Now the trick will be to keep it up. There are three rounds to go, and some big names close behind. Two-time Masters champ Jose Maria Olazabal is two strokes back, and Tiger Woods, defending champ Geoff Ogilvy, Vijay Singh and ex-University of Arizona star Jim Furyk are among 16 at 1-over.
“This was as easy as it’s going to play,” Woods said. “And look what happened.”
Jim Furyk 37-34-71 +1
Rory Sabbatini 35-38-73 +3
Ricky Barnes 37-39-76 +6
CDO HS grad
Jacob Rogers 38-47-85 +15