Holing a 142-yard shot for an eagle two was an unexpected bonus for Nick Dougherty today as he resumed his bid to get back into the Ryder Cup race.
The 26-year-old from Liverpool shared the lead after four holes of the SAS Masters in Stockholm, the third-to-last event in the year-long qualifying battle.
Dougherty led the race when he won the Dunhill Links at St Andrews last October, but after the death of his mother in April following a heart attack, he is now only 15th and has not managed a top 50 in his last seven starts.
Back on the Arlandastad course where he was a joint runner-up last year, Dougherty looked like dropping a stroke straightaway as he teed off in wind and rain.
But a 30-foot putt saved him an opening par and his eagle came with a wedge - the hole was playing downwind – shortly afterwards.
Not that he knew it had gone in for several minutes. There was only a ripple of applause from the few spectators up at the green and it was not until playing partner Robert Karlsson peered into the cup that there was confirmation.
When Dougherty then salvaged par on the next with a nine-footer he had had only four putts in the first four holes.
Alongside him were fellow Englishman Simon Wakefield, in contention at The Open last month until the last few holes, Australian Peter Fowler and Swede Magnus Carlsson.
American DJ Trahan, playing on a sponsor’s invitation, was treating the trip as a break from the US Tour, but it still carried importance since he is among the leading candidates for one of Paul Azinger’s four wild cards in two weeks’ time.
However, Trahan bogeyed the first two holes and had to make a 20-foot putt to avoid going to three-over on the 13th, his fourth.