NICK Dougherty is hoping to take America by storm as he sets about building on a phenomenal 2007 season.

The States will seem like a second home to the confident Shaw Hill professional this year after last October's sensational victory at the Alfred Dunhiil Links Championship.

His triumph at St Andrews - arguably his best career moment to date - took Dougherty into the world's top 50, allowing him to play in this year's biggest events.

A debut appearance at The Masters is on the horizon, along with the US Open in San Diego, while tomorrow, the 25-year-old goes head-to-head against fellow Englishman Luke Donald at the WGC Accenture Matchplay in Tucson, Arizona.

But for Dougherty, a former student at Blackburn's Queen's Elizabeth Grammar School, the year's pinnacle will be at Valhalla, Kentucky, host to the 2008 Ryder Cup.

Qualification for Nick Faldo's European team looks all but guaranteed, with Dougherty currently placed third in the Ryder Cup points list.

"That's the main thing for me this year, to guarantee my place in the Ryder Cup team," revealed Dougherty.

"If I can make that, it would be great and I'm in a good spot right now.

"At the moment, it's looking a done deal, and if I keep playing well, and maintain that consistency throughtout the year, then I'm confident I will be a part of it.

"But there's a lot of good players who also want to be a part of it, so I've got to keep pushing."

Dougherty added: "Looking back, 2007 was a great year for me. But I cannot afford to look back and relax.

"It's important that I maintain the form of 2007 and build on that this year.

"There's a very exciting year ahead of me, going to my first ever US Masters, back to the US Open, playing at Royal Birkdale in the Open.

"That will be a great buzz for me. But I've got to keep going, and keep performing week in, week out."

And Dougherty admits he will be playing in more tournaments across the Atlantic, with no real ambition to claim this year's European Tour Order of Merit.

"I will be playing a lot in America this year - perhaps about 10 events," he continued.

"So I'm not necessarily looking at the Order of Merit. It's something I'm not too bothered about."

Making his debut in tomorrow's WGC Accenture Matchplay, Dougherty, ranked 46 in the world, faces a tough opening first round.

He was due to lock horns with Germany's rising star Martin Kaymer, but following Ernie Els' late decision to play in Arizona, a shift in the 64-man draw sees Dougherty squaring up against Donald.

Both were Walker Cup partners seven years ago.

But the Chorley professional is in confident mood and - after gradually remoulding his swing during the winter with Blackburn-born coach Damien Taylor - he is ready for the challenge ahead.

"It's my first time at the World Matchplay and I'm very much looking forward to it," said Dougherty.

"As I'm having quite a big run out in the States this year, this is only going to whet my appetite.

"It's going to be difficult, you never know what can happen.

"Apart from Tiger Woods, there's a lot of guys that will fancy their chances against anyone else, but it all depends how you play over 18 holes.

"If you don't play well, you are going to get beat no matter who you face.

"You could play one of the top guys, and if everything comes together on the day, you will beat them.

"It's all about playing at the top of your game for four or five consistent days, but it's taking it one at a time and concentrating on each round as it comes.

"But I'm certainly feeling confident and I'm reasonably happy with the way I'm playing."