Dougherty on top after crash course in the basics from dad

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The Independent Online

Who'd be a dad? The son smashes your Mercedes up and then expects you to salvage his golf game in time for the biggest tournament on the European Tour.

So it was yesterday for poor Roger Dougherty, who must have found it very difficult indeed last night to dish out the rollocking young Nick deserved. Well, how do you tell your boy who turned 24 on Wednesday that thanks to him he has a mangled mess where the boot used to be, and that no, a 67 to share the lead in the BMW PGA Championship alongside two other young Englishmen called Luke Donald and Paul Casey was no excuse?

On Tuesday, Nick had insisted that Roger's pride and joy would easily fit on to his rather fancy, two-tier hydraulic parking device in Richmond. Crunch! "Nick, where are you?" sounded the booming voice as quivering recipient was on his way back from the Tour's annual dinner. Dougherty Jnr feared the worst. "Dad's always been hard on me," he laughed.

It has been the making of the next big thing in British golf, ever since he was dragged on to the municipal in Bootle. There the teacher would hold court and hone skills that were not just confined to a classic swing that promises to carry the prodigy into this year's Ryder Cup team and beyond. At the same time the 59-year-old learnt a bit about the game as well, so much so that his son's coach ­ the peerless David Leadbetter ­ even took some advice off the five-handicapper not so long ago.

"Dad understands me better than anyone and makes the game seem so less complicated," Nick said. "He thinks it's a case of 'hit it down the fairway, knock it on the green and make the putt.' I mean how hard is it? I know he's not going to screw me up, because he's my Dad. That's why I got him down here from Liverpool."

Good call. Dougherty, who has been "beating himself up" more than he ever has in the last two tournaments, was a player reborn yesterday, dashing around the lengthened West Course in that elegant manner of his with just one bogey a stranger among six birdies.

Such effortless exhibitions were not supposed to happen here again after Ernie Els' course changes, although Donald believes he knows the reason why he, his two countrymen and Zimbabwe's Andrew McLardy found it eminently possible to skirt to the top of a congested leader board.

"They moved the tees up," said the Chicago-based 28-year-old. "The European Tour were cautious. You would not have seen that in America, no. They would have been excited with the changes and expected a tough test. That was negated today."

Donald went on to agree with the view of those such as Colin Montgomerie and Paul McGinley that until the Tour makes the set-ups more severe ­ less generous off the tee, thicker rough, tougher pin positions ­ then the Europeans may not fare very well in America. "That's part of the reason why we haven't been very successful," he said. "Especially the US Open."

With the latter looming in three weeks' time, Donald will fancy his chances at Winged Foot as must Casey now, for there is not a golfer in all the world in such form. A fortnight ago he led until the final offing of the British Masters; last week he finished second at The Belfry; and now... well here he is again. "This consistency is something different, something new," he said.

A happy day then for English golfers everywhere. With or without a boot to chuck the clubs into.