Dougherty stays upbeat after lapse

One costly lapse in concentration yesterday sent the pre-tournament favourite Nick Dougherty tumbling off the leaderboard in the Portuguese Open. Dougherty had just carded his second birdie in a row to lie one shot off the lead when he fell foul of the daunting 18th.

One costly lapse in concentration yesterday sent the pre-tournament favourite Nick Dougherty tumbling off the leader board in the Portuguese Open. Dougherty had just carded his second birdie in a row to lie one shot off the lead when he fell foul of the daunting 18th.

The 22-year-old drove out of bounds on the 474-yard par four and then hit his second ball into a bush to the left of the fairway. After taking a penalty drop the Liverpudlian missed the green with his approach and needed three more shots to get down, running up a quadruple bogey eight. From two under par Dougherty slumped to two over and after another bogey on the fifth, needed to birdie his last two holes to record a one-over-par 72. That was seven shots behind the leader Markus Brier of Austria, who defied the testing cross-winds blowing in off the Atlantic Ocean to card a superb 65.

"It's disappointing but I played quite nicely apart from that one hole," said Dougherty, who won his first Tour title in Singapore in January. "It makes it so much more difficult when the wind blows and it was good to shoot one over. My attitude was good and I was very calm. I'm obviously playing good enough golf." Dougherty was one of the early starters who faced the toughest conditions, with only 11 out of 78 players breaking par.

Among them was France's Jean Van de Velde, who carded 70 on his fourth comeback from a serious knee injury. Van de Velde has undergone two bouts of reconstructive surgery and made three attempts to return to the European Tour on a medical exemption last season, only to miss the cut in eight of his 14 tournaments and was in too much pain to attempt to earn his card at the qualifying school.

As a result the Frenchman has to rely on invites to compete on tour, a situation which would have been avoided if he had taken anything less than a triple-bogey seven on the final hole of the Open championship in 1999. Victory at Carnoustie, which went to Paul Lawrie in a play-off, would have given Van de Velde a 10-year exemption. "I'm happy," said Van de Velde, who recovered from a double bogey on the 18th to hit five birdies at Oitavos Golf Club. "The knee was perfect."

* Britain's Luke Donald pulled out of the BellSouth Classic yesterday as torrential storms washed out the first day's play. With a Monday finish in Atlanta now looking likely, the 27-year-old who came joint-second in last week's Players Championship, decided he would need more time to recover from a shoulder injury and prepare at Augusta for his first Masters next week.

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