Nick Dougherty feels his game is coming together as he attempts to regain his position as one of the world’s leading golfers after a difficult 2008 campaign.

The Chorley golfer enjoyed an outstanding season in 2007 when he claimed victory in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and finished 11th in the Order of Merit with seven top 10 results including joint seventh in the US Open at Oakmont.

But his form and results dipped last year following the tragic loss of his beloved mother, Ennis, who 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 is in Kuala Lumpur for today’s Maybank Malaysian Open.

“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 managed to soldier on 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, the former Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year 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 explained.

“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.”