x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Dubai Creek Open: Scotland and Dodd lock horns again

Leading duo Stephen Dodd and Zane Scotland are wary of dropping guard as season resumes.

Zane Scotland, left, won the Dubai Creek Open last season with the veteran Stephen Dodd finishing second. Mike Young / The National
Zane Scotland, left, won the Dubai Creek Open last season with the veteran Stephen Dodd finishing second. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // Given recent results in the Mena Golf Tour, it is not difficult to envisage its two prize fighters slugging it out for the Order of Merit yet again.

A glance at the current standings, after two of the extended circuit’s 10 tournaments, reinforces that notion: at the tops sits Zane Scotland, last year’s order of merit runner-up, while second place is occupied by the battle-hardened Stephen Dodd, who was first in earnings.

The pair have already landed one big punch each this campaign, trading blows in the tour’s spring events in Morocco in March to emerge with a victory each. Yet, the experienced pair remain wary the competition’s third instalment is stuffed full of able contenders.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if someone from the pack pops up,” said Scotland ahead the 2013 season’s resumption today at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

“It only takes three or four good performances and that battle between only Stephen and I goes out the window. I’m obviously aware of that rivalry building up, but sometimes you can get so lost in one thing you don’t realise that all the other good players are playing, and it can catch you out.”

Dodd, a three-time winner on the European Tour, has been around long enough to stave off any complacency. A more keenly contested Mena this time round only strengthens his conviction.

Aside from Scotland in the 118-strong field there is Ross McGowan, winner of the 2009 European Tour’s Madrid Masters and runner-up to Lee Westwood at the inaugural Dubai World Championship later that year.

Asian Tour veterans Ross Bain and Yasin Ali should provide stiff competition, too.

“I know I need to play again if I’m to compete, because there’s a lot of good players out there also striving to do well,” Dodd said. “So I need to be on my game and perform.

“These guys can play well at any time. Both Zane and I have got to do really well if we’re going win. It’s as simple as that.”

Dodd comes into the event competition-hardened, spending the past few weeks swinging his way around the European Tour. While he concedes he was left disappointed at the Johnnie Walker Championship and the Wales Open – his home tournament – a tied-26th at the European Masters should bode well this week.

“I’ve not played a massive amount this year, so it’s nice to play a run of events coming into this one,” Dodd said. “I don’t feel any pressure as defending [overall] champion. It’s a comfortable environment for me out here, despite being a bit hot, so I can get down and do the things I want to do.”

That includes going one better at the Creek than last year. Back then, Dodd’s week was bettered by only one player. Guess who?

“Yeah, winning here last time definitely gives me some confidence coming into this,” said Scotland, who leads the 2013 money list. “I’m looking forward to getting going again. It’s nice to have that head start on the field from a couple of good events in Morocco. I’m just aiming to build on that start, really.”

Replicating last year’s performance may constitute a short-term goal, but pipping Dodd to the overall title will remain a constant until Mena concludes with the Tour Championship on November 13.

By the close of play in Al Ain last November, a mere $1,939 (Dh7,120) separated the Englishman from the ultimate prize. The frustration still gnaws.

“I certainly want to do it this year having come so close last time,” Scotland said. “Missing out by a tiny bit last year means it’s definitely in my plans, but I also want to keep improving, to finish ahead of where I was last year.

“And in finishing second, there’s only one place to go: first.”