x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Attack is order of the day for Scotland

Mena Tour leader will stick with what has worked for him ahead while closest rival Dodd prefers not to look ahead.

According to Zane Scotland, the course conditions in Al Ain will suit his game.
According to Zane Scotland, the course conditions in Al Ain will suit his game.

AL AIN // "Don't protect, correct" is the maxim that has helped lift Zane Scotland to the top of the Mena Tour standings, and the pacesetter has vowed not to change tack this week as he looks to close out the title.

The Englishman heads into the season-ending Mena Tour Championship as the man to beat following an impressively consistent tournament, which has included one victory and two runner-up finishes.

Such prolificacy sees Scotland enjoy a US$3,167 (Dh11,600) lead in the standings, with Stephen Dodd, the experienced former European Tour player, his closest competitor.

The Pakistan pair Mohammed Munir and Shafiq Masih form the next two nearest active challengers, with Ross McGowan, the winner at the Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open, not competing in Al Ain as he attempts to earn his US PGA Tour card.

Scotland owes his position at the summit much to a win in last month's Dubai Creek Open, the season's curtain-raiser, although a relative dip in form in Abu Dhabi and then Saudi Arabia - he finished tied 38th and eighth respectively - prompted the 30 year old to alter his approach, something that has paid off handsomely with second-place finishes the past two weeks.

"I wanted to be first or second going into the final event and I've done that," said Scotland, who is eager to land one of the spots in next year's Omega Dubai Desert Classic awarded to the top three in the professionals' Order of Merit.

"I didn't perform well after a great start to the tour so my motto from Saudi has been 'don't protect, correct'. In other words, go for it and don't worry about messing up. And if I do, then just correct it and move on.

"I've been sticking to that because last year I was close the whole way to getting a Desert Classic place, but thought the job was done and relaxed.

"That experience has made me better this time as I'm thinking that, until the tournament's finished, anything can happen. So keeping attacking has been the theme. If I get an opportunity, try to grab it."

Scotland believes the course conditions at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club will suit his game - the track is set up for birdies - but says he realises the presence of an in-form Dodd means he will have to remain at the top of his game all week.

Dodd, 46, has enjoyed a stellar career that has returned a treble of triumphs on the European Tour, most notably the 2006 European Open, and victory last week at the Sheikh Maktoum Dubai Open.

"Certainly from past achievements Stephen is the most high-profile player here so it's going to be pretty tough to take the Order of Merit," Scotland said.

"Being chased down by someone of his quality is a different prospect, but you want to compete against the top players.

"I'm glad he's committed to the tour and raised the standard of the competition this year because a guys who's won massive championships pushes you on. So I hope Stephen plays well this week and shoots 20-under, only that I shoot 21-under."

This event's increased purse ensures it is mathematically possible to secure the overall crown for as many as seven of the 40 professionals competing - 15 amateurs complete the field - although Scotland and Dodd will be confident of landing the trophy.

The latter, however, says he is not peering that far into the future.

"It's a nice situation to be in, but I'll look at it only at the end of the week," Dodd said.

"I'm here to try and play well and see what happens. The event itself is the most important; it's the biggest one and the one we all want to win.

"I'm no different to any other player. We all want to get a victory and that's what I'll try to do."

Munir, who is in third place in the Order of Merit, said: "Whatever has to happen has happened. I'm taking a relaxed attitude into the Tour Championship, hoping things fall into place."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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