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Nick Dougherty is in the midst of a career slump.
Nick Dougherty is in the midst of a career slump.

Golfer Nick Dougherty cuts a forlorn figure right now

Incredibly for a one-time promising player, Nick Dougherty's position is such that only a victory will do this week to avoid a trip to the Tour qualifying school for the first time since he turned professional in 2001.

If Nick Dougherty's career had gone as he hoped, his destination this week might well have been China, for the World Cup. As it is, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter are the ones representing England at Mission Hills, and Dougherty has a very different task on his hands.

The South African Open at Serengeti is the last-but-one chance for Dougherty, 29, to salvage something from a year so bad that "nightmare" does not even come close to an apt description.

From being close to a place in Europe's Ryder Cup side in 2008 - few doubt it would have happened but for the sudden death of his mother that April - Dougherty has hit rock bottom.

In the past 12 months he has played 31 European Tour events and missed the cut in 30 of them.

From 46th in the world he has crashed to 927th and from 11th on the 2007 Tour money list to 281st with little more than 9,000 (Dh51,500).

All that came from one performance in Switzerland in September, where just for a moment he appeared he had put his troubles behind him.

Nine missed cuts followed.

To avoid a trip to the Tour qualifying school for the first time since he turned professional in 2001, his position is such that only a victory will do this week.

Falling short of that would leave him only next week's Hong Kong Open but, after the run of results he has had, just to make another halfway cut would be a step in the right direction.


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