x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Mena Tour: Experienced Dodd makes it count against Hinton to win in Abu Dhabi

The wily Englishman does not falter on the 18th under pressure to clinch the title at Saadiyat Island.

Newly-turned pro Craig Hinton was no match for the veteran Stephen Dodd. Sammy Dallal / The National
Newly-turned pro Craig Hinton was no match for the veteran Stephen Dodd. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // The contrast was as obvious as the difference between the sugary white sand and turquoise waters that frame several holes at the seaside Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.

The final pairing of the Mena Tour’s Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open yesterday featured the wily veteran Stephen Dodd, the Englishman who has three European Tour victories on his CV, and the newly minted professional Craig Hinton, who was playing in his third professional event.

Hinton has a crisp, modern swing, with perfect balance and ideal launch angles. He wears fashionably cut, Swedish-designed golf clothes and is thinner than a 1-iron. Dodd’s old-school sawing motion has a few more moving parts, while his attire, shall we say, is slightly more rumpled.

Dodd, 47, turned pro in 1990, which is only a few months removed from when Hinton, 25, was born. The generation gap was impossible to miss.

“Thanks,” Dodd said, rolling his eyes.

That said, score another one for the benefit of experience.

Dodd, the defending Order of Merit champion, delivered the hero shot when he needed it most, knocking a 7-iron from 172 yards to within 30 inches of the hole on the 18th to cement his second Mena victory of the year.

“Experience counts,” Hinton said of Dodd’s clutch swing. “The key is to stay in the situation, to keep pressing on.”

The two were tied at 6 under as they stood in the 18th fairway, their tee shots a few yards apart. Dodd, a Welshman, covered the flag with his 7-iron and, from the fairway, it looked like his shot could have gone in. Hinton had no choice but to attack the flag, but he pulled his approach and missed the green.

Facing a 30-foot pitch he thought he needed to hole, he gunned a wedge 10-feet past the cup and made a bogey. So it did not matter when Dodd missed the short birdie putt a moment later; the psychological damage had been done.

“I kind of wish he’d made it,” said Hinton, who shot a 2-over 74, trying to find a silver lining.

At times, they looked like a father-son pairing, with Hinton repeatedly borrowing Dodd’s distance range-finder, because his was broken. Hinton made a rookie mistake when he left his sand wedge behind on the second hole, and by the time a club employee retrieved it, 12 holes later, he had been forced to play two or three key shots without it.

Dodd, who shot 70, made four birdies in a five-hole stretch to take the lead, but bogeyed the 16th to fall back into a tie, setting the stage for the shot on the 18th.

Producing under those circumstances never gets old.

“Wherever you are playing, it’s nice to be able to do that when you need to,” Dodd said.

selling@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE