CHORLEY golfer Nick Dougherty believes he is close to a return to form after having to deal with the death of his mother in 2008.

The Shaw Hill Golf Club professional enjoyed a fine 2007 campaign, winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships and finishing 11th in the Order of Merit.

Dougherty achieved a total of seven top 10 results that year, including finshing joint seventh at the US Open.

But the former QEGS pupil suffered a loss of form last year after his mother Ennis died of a heart attack in April.

"It was a mixture of things but I really started to struggle after my mum died," said the 26-year-old, who starts the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.

"After that, it's always difficult to perform. It's one thing to lose a parent, it's another thing to lose a parent in the public eye and try to compete at the highest level with the best in the world.

"That made it difficult and I really struggled after that. I was hoping to turn things around sooner but sometimes it takes a while with things like that.

"I've had to be patient but when it does come back, I'm going to be better for it."

Dougherty continued playing despite his loss, recording six top 10 finishes and finishing 44th in the Order of Merit before taking much of the winter off.

He returned for the 'Gulf Swing' last month and although his results in the Middle East - 70th in Abu Dhabi, tied 27th in Qatar and a missed cut in Dubai - were far from impressive, Dougherty is happy with the state of his game.

"It's a matter of opinion I suppose but I'm slowly working myself back with confidence," he said.

"The results are usually the last thing that comes in golf. You have to put the work in and obviously last year was a tough year for me and I'm slowly building and I'm playing really good."

And he hopes the hard work will pay off in Malaysia this week.

"I'm going to try and win,” he said. “That's what it's all about and it's what I've done before. I think my golf game is really close. I'm looking forward to building some confidence - that's all I really need.

"I'm swinging the club better than I've ever swung it and my short game is in the best shape it's ever been. The only thing missing is the results and that will come with just playing and putting myself in there.

"I know I can compete and do it. In 2007, I showed myself to be one of the best players in the world and it's there to be done again."