Nick Dougherty's first win after the sudden death of his mother was always going to be emotional and that the young Englishman had to endure the worst 12 months of his career before eventually returning to the winner's enclosure was to make the tears which flowed in Munich yesterday that bit more inevitable. On holding a short putt to lift the BMW International Open, Dougherty pointed to the sky with a Frank Lampard-like dedication.
But what a scare the 27-year-old from Liverpool was given before he secured the £280,000 first prize, as well as a spot in next month's Open Championship at Turnberry. Five clear and seemingly coasting with three to play, the gap was suddenly cut to one when Rafa Echenique finished with two twos, holing a 243-yard three-iron on the last for only the fourth albatross of the European Tour season.
The Argentine came back in a Tour record equalling 27 and was, remarkably, 10-under for his last 10 holes. But his 62 for a 21-under total was destined to fall one short as Dougherty nervelessly parred in to post a 64. Immediately his thoughts turned to Ennis, his mother, who died of a heart attack aged 61, a few days after her son's Masters debut. "I'm very proud and I'm sure she would be too," said Dougherty whose third Tour title came 20 months after his last. "It's no secret that the last year has been tough for me since she died. There have been lonely times on Tour and times when I didn't know if I much felt like playing golf. But I've come through it and this means so much to me."
Dougherty's professional decline since his personal tragedy has been pronounced. He was established as a top-50 player and seemed a near certainty to make the Ryder Cup team of Nick Faldo. But after Augusta, in his remaining 18 events of 2008, he managed just two top-five placings and last week he arrived in the Bavarian capital with just one top-10 finish of the '09 campaign. Dougherty was out of the world's top 100 and in his last event, the Wales Open three weeks ago, had blown a lead with a final-round 79.
"I've actually been more consistent of late and have had a few chances to win," he said. "But things have gone against me. By the 15th I told myself, 'This is my time'. Then I looked at the scoreboard and realised what Rafa had done and thought, 'Oh my goodness, not again'."
It was certainly good enough to leave the long-time leader Retief Goosen trailing in third, four shots behind. Bernard Langer, meanwhile, could not reward the home crowd who turned out to see if the 51-year-old could roll back the years. Langer's 72 , however, was not as disappointing as Colin Montgomerie's 76. It left him in joint 66th of the 71 players and ensured the Ryder Cup captain would complete a full year without a top-10 finish.