DUBAI // Zane Scotland says he will wear well the burden of expectation as he goes into next week's Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open very much the man to beat.
The 29 year old, who won the trophy last year at Saadiyat Beach Club, ensured the perfect preparation for his title defence with a two-shot victory yesterday in the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club Open, the curtain-raiser for the Mena Tour season.
Scotland began the final round three strokes ahead of playing partner Stephen Dodd, a three-time winner on the European Tour, yet kept his nerve to card a one-under par 70 and finish eight-under for the event.
However, having sealed the trophy and a cheque for US$9,000 (Dh33,000), Scotland immediately set sights on Abu Dhabi as he looks to build form ahead of November's European Tour Qualifying School.
"I've got a title to defend and to go there on the back of a win is perfect," he said. "To win alongside Stephen is such a good feeling because you know he's a great player who's done it all before.
"So I can't wait for next week. As a golfer, from a mid-level club player to a good amateur to a pro, you spend so much of your life struggling. To now have a target on my back is actually quite a nice feeling; it doesn't happen very often so I'm going to enjoy it."
Scotland has long been familiar with towering expectations after victory in a nationwide tournament in 1997 saw the Englishman, then aged 14, labelled the "British Tiger Woods". Serious injury - the result of a car crash in 2003 - threatened to end his career, while a 2007 season spent on the European Tour appeared set to provide his finest achievement in the game.
Victory at Dubai Creek, though, followed a successful passage through the first section of Q-School, meaning come phase two Scotland should be in shape to finally regain playing rights on the European Tour.
"This all helps, definitely," he said. "As a professional golfer you have to try and make money, and confidence is obviously a big thing. My goal over the past few weeks has been to get through the first part of Tour School, come here and win a tournament and then try to finish in the top three.
"But I've got to really knuckle down and keep my momentum. I've always gone to Tour School a bit rusty in the past, but I'm playing six events here on testing courses.
"Normally you're dreading it, but this time I feel as if I have a great chance."
The top three professionals in the Order of Merit receive an invite to the 2013 Dubai Desert Classic, something Scotland says will guarantee motivation throughout the tournament.
"It's getting harder to get into European Tour events so for the Mena Tour to have these spots is massive," he said. "There are no other development tours that offer that carrot."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE