Tait: Lloyd, Haines are players to watch

Nick Dougherty

Nick Dougherty

Phillip Archer may have won the latest event on the European Challenge Tour, but the men who finished just behind him will give heart to every fan of English golf.

Archer holed a four-foot birdie putt on the final hole to finish a stroke ahead of compatriot Chris Lloyd and Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen to win the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic, the second event on the European Challenge Tour. Fellow Englishmen Matt Haines, Chris Hanson and Nick Dougherty finished two strokes further back to give England five of the top six places.

It was Archer’s third Challenge Tour win, but at age 39 the man from Warrington, England isn’t exactly going to carry the English flag in future years. The same can’t be said about the men he beat.

Lloyd is just 20 and in his first full season as a professional. He came through the English Golf Union system and big things are predicted in his future.

Lloyd was originally named in the 23-man 2011 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup squad. He was also a target for college golf coaches during his amateur days. However the Englishman only had eyes for the pro game. He’s made the best possible start to getting a card for the 2013 European Tour.

Remember the name. Chris Lloyd could have a big future in European golf.

So could Matt Haines. The 22-year-old appeared on the 2009 GB&I walker Cup team. He won the Lytham Trophy that same year to announce himself as a player to watch. Haines got his card for last year’s European Tour but didn’t live up to expectations. He failed to keep playing rights on the main tour and has dropped down to the junior circuit this season. Don’t be surprised if he’s back on the main tour next season.

Dougherty doesn’t really need any introduction. He’s a three-time European Tour winner who lost his way. He made just one cut in 32 events last season and lost his card. The affable Englishman then finished 122 out of 148 starters at the European Qualifying School.

The 29-year-old is playing Europe’s junior circuit for the first time, a time when he was expected to be pushing fellow Englishmen like Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Dougherty played on the same victorious 2001 GB&I Walker Cup team as Donald and Graeme McDowell. While Donald has gone on to become World No. 1, and McDowell to U.S. Open glory, Dougherty has slipped to World No. 1,015 from a career high of 46 in 2008.

So Donald has gone to the bottom of the pecking order to start the long road back to the top of Europe’s hierarchy. If Colombia is anything to go by, then it might not be long before he is back playing with Europe’s elite. Along with Haines and Lloyd.

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