MADEIRA, Portugal -- Nick Dougherty returns from a six-week absence from competition looking forward to the birth of his first child and playing without a fear of failure.
Dougherty will go up against four former Ryder Cup players and six former champions competing Thursday in the Madeira Islands Open.
MADEIRA ISLANDS OPEN
This week marks the 20th staging of the Madeira Islands Open, one of the smallest events on the European Tour but also one of the most scenically spectacular.
It is only Dougherty's third European Tour event this season after competing in two second-tier Challenge Tour events, capped by a tie for fourth in the Colombia Classic in March. He's lost all playing rights on the European Tour, where he's won three times, so he's concentrating on the Challenge Tour.
"It's been a long time since I can say I am looking forward to my golf as I just punished myself so hard trying to hold onto my main European Tour card," he said after Wednesday's pro-am. "I just didn't want to go out and play, but I had to. Then when I did, I played absolutely horrible. Now if I don't play well, then it's not going to get me down."
He won't compete in the BMW PGA Championship, the biggest event on the European Tour aside from the British Open, on May 24, his 30th birthday. It's a tournament he's played every year since 2002.
"I am looking to build back my confidence, and if I manage to win back my European Tour card, then well and good," he said. "If not, I will stick out here on the Challenge Tour. There's just not the intensity or the hype around the main tour."
Dougherty married former TV presenter Di Stewart in 2010 at St. Andrews and the couple expects their first child, a boy, in August.
"I can't wait to become a father and Di and I are so much looking forward to the birth," he said. "She's here with me this week and that's great."
Others in the field include former Ryder Cup players Phil Price, Niclas Fasth, Oliver Wilson and Jarmo Sandelin.
The former Madeira Islands winners who will tee up are Spain's Santiago Luna (1995), Sandelin (1996), Fasth (2000), Welshman Bradley Dredge (2003), Argentina's Daniel Vancsik (2007) and Scotland's Alastair Forsyth (2008).