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Nick Dougherty set for Singapore defence

Young Briton Nick Dougherty, a protege of six-times major winner Nick Faldo, will be in buoyant mood when he defends his Singapore Masters title this week.

The 23-year-old Englishman has three times finished in the top 10 in six starts this season and occupies seventh place on the order of merit.

Twelve months ago, Dougherty produced a mature performance beyond his years to secure a five-shot victory over fellow Briton Colin Montgomerie and Dutchman Maarten Lafeber.

"The best night out I've had in my life was the Sunday in Singapore," he told the European Tour's official website.

"It wasn't a big night, I was just sitting in a bar and everyone was coming up to me. You think, 'You've done it'."

Faldo recognised Dougherty as a special talent during his own junior series and took him under his wing, coaching the youngster in every aspect of a professional golfer's life.

Dougherty's victory in Singapore was his first on the tour and he said it was particularly pleasing to gain the respect of his fellow competitors.

"To have the respect of the other players is so satisfying. It was picture perfect," he said.

"To beat Monty on a tough course with a fantastic crowd there and to win by five shots, that is really something special.

"I can't wait to return. You can only defend your first victory once and I aim to make the most of it."

One of Dougherty's main title rivals at the Laguna National Golf and Country Club is likely to be in-form South African Charl Schwartzel.

Schwartzel returns to the circuit after successfully defending his order of merit crown on the Sunshine Tour.

He won the season-ending Vodacom Tour Championship to become the first player to win back-to-back order of merit titles since John Bland in 1990 and 1991.

Niclas Fasth of Sweden, twice a winner last season, and Briton Paul Broadhurst, who ended a 10-year victory drought when he triumphed in Portugal last year, are among the pre-tournament favourites.

The event will also feature Asia's top two players, Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.

The $1 million tournament is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours.

March 7, 2006


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