March 29, 2006

Dougherty chasing three titles this year

By Norman Dabell

PENINA, Portugal (Reuters) - British youngster Nick
Dougherty said on Wednesday that winning tournaments took
priority over qualifying for the Ryder Cup team.

"Golf's an individual sport and it will mean much more for
me to win three tournaments this year, arguably to win one,"
the 23-year-old said as he prepared for the start of the
Algarve Portuguese Open on Thursday.

"I appreciate it being a tough call and a Ryder Cup place
is certainly something I want on my CV but for 51 weeks a year
it is an individual game."

Dougherty has finished second, third and fourth twice this
season already and holds eighth place of the 10 automatic spots
for the Ryder Cup team. He is also fifth on Europe's money

He missed out on a place in the Masters after only lying
62nd in the world rankings at the end of last week, when only
the top 50 made Augusta.

Despite that disappointment, Dougherty can enhance his
chances of playing in the Ryder Cup this week at Penina.

European captain Ian Woosnam is delighted the former
tearaway, who seemed fonder of night clubs than golf clubs at
one time, has settled down to battle for a place in his team.

"I think everyone serves an apprenticeship. Nick has
knuckled down over the past 18 months and is just starting to
fulfil his potential," said Woosnam.

A strong field on the Algarve includes Woosnam's fellow
Welshmen Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd, who won the
rain-affected 54-hole World Cup at the nearby Victoria club,
Villamoura last November.

Britain's former Ryder Cup player Paul Broadhurst, who
ended a 10-year barren spell last year with victory in Estoril,
defends his title. The 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie,
second last year, is also in the field.

Last week's Madeira champion Jean Van de Velde also plays
in Portugal after winning for the first time in 13 years.

Seve Ballesteros, yet to make a start to the European Tour
season, decided not to enter this week's event or the Spanish
Open next month.