Liverpool golfer Nick Dougherty wins place at the Open

LIVERPOOL’S Nick Dougherty, who this time last year had little desire to play golf, finally returned to winning ways in Munich – and with it earned a place in next month’s Open.

But what a scare the 27-year-old from Liverpool, so devastated by the sudden death of his mother straight after his US Masters debut 14 months ago, was given before he made the BMW International Open his third European Tour victory.

Four clear and seemingly coasting, the gap was suddenly cut to one when Argentina’s Rafa Echenique sank a 243-yard three-iron on the last for only the fourth albatross of the Tour season.

Having eagled the 11th Echenique equalled the Tour record with his back nine 27 – he actually played the last 10 holes in an amazing 10 under – but Dougherty kept his composure.

Three closing pars gave him a superb 64 for a 22 under par total and after raising a hand to the skies he said: “The strength that my Mum had lives on in me.

“I want to say thank you to all the people who have helped me through some tough times. I have a great team around me and it’s great to be back where I feel I belong.”

The win earned him nearly £283,000 and he qualifies for Turnberry off a mini-Order of Merit which has been running since the Italian Open at the start of last month.

On the moment when he saw what Echenique had done Dougherty added: “I thought ’Oh my goodness’. The 18th has been an absolute brute for me this week and I’m delighted to get the job done.”

Long-time leader Retief Goosen finished third, but 51-year-old Bernhard Langer, hoping to become the oldest winner in Tour History in front of his home fans and only one behind after an opening birdie, fell back to ninth.

Echenique commented: “I’ve never had an albatross before and I had a great sensation. This is a dream for me - it’s unbelievable.”

Three behind at the start of the round Dougherty kicked off with three straight birdies to draw level and after five holes was two in front.

Goosen did come back to sneak in front with a fine eagle on the long ninth, but Dougherty was back on terms with a birdie there and was never caught from the moment he began the back nine with a birdie to the double US Open champion’s bogey.

Further birdies came at the 13th and 14th and from over the back of the next green he made a 20-footer for another - the one which proved the decisive blow in the end.

Rory McIlroy threatened to become part of the title battle when he had an eagle and three birdies around the turn to be up to fourth only three shots behind, but the 20-year-old slipped back to 15th.

Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie completed a full year without a single top 10 finish with a 76 that dropped him to joint 66th of the 71 players.

This coming week, however, he return to the French Open where he was runner-up to Spanish qualifier Pablo Larrazabal.

At least he left Germany with one good memory. His third round included an ace on the short eighth, thereby extending his own Tour record number of holes-in-one to nine.

Two Open spots were up for grabs and the other was taken by Swede Johan Edfors.

On the Ladies European Tour, former Royal Birkdale member Florentyna Parker finished joint second in the AIB Irish Open to Italy’s Diana Luna.

Parker’s final round 71 put her on seven under par, four shots off the lead.