The Mena Tour Order of Merit leader says he is comfortable going into the Sheikh Maktoum Dubai Open as the target man, writes John McAuley.
Zane Scotland 'nervous' at Mena Tour's top but says he can 'handle it'
DUBAI // Zane Scotland says he is happy to go into this week's penultimate Mena Tour test as favourite despite last week's tempered expectations heralding a timely return to form.
The Englishman began the season with a comfortable victory at the Dubai Creek Open, yet in the following two outings struggled to replicate his opening performance with a tied-38th finish in Abu Dhabi and a share of eighth in Saudi Arabia.
However, a final round 67 at Tower Links Golf Club last Wednesday sealed an unlikely second place at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic and moved him to the top of the professionals' Order of Merit.
Scotland attributed his success to the fact he did not believe his game was good enough to warrant a high finish and, with his bid to consolidate his lead in the overall standings getting under way on Monday in the Sheikh Maktoum Dubai Open, the former European Tour player says he plans to stay relaxed to keep his title quest on track.
"Now that I'm playing well again my mind may start running away a little bit where I begin to think about winning," Scotland said ahead of his first round at Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai.
"At the beginning of last week I wasn't playing well so there were no expectations.
"This week I'll have to try to have a similar outlook but know in the back of my mind that I've found my game, too. So it's a bit of a strange position to be in.
"But I'll just concentrate on my own game and if I do what I need to then I'll be there or thereabouts. I'm in a really good position and it's actually nice feeling a bit nervous knowing I'm playing well and can continue that. I've got the experience to handle it."
Scotland leads the Order of Merit by US$2,729 (Dh10,023), ahead of Mohammed Munir, the winner last week, and Ross McGowan, although McGowan has since left the tournament to compete in qualifying school for the US PGA Tour. Shafiq Masih, the Pakistan No 6, and Stephen Dodd, a three-time winner on Europe's main circuit, are also in contention for the professional crown.
The Al Badia event boasts a 126-man field - including 29 amateurs - with the top 40 professionals and leading 15 amateurs in the overall standings after this week earning a place at next Monday's Tour Championship in Al Ain, the climax to this season.
Peter Richardson, the defending champion at Al Badia, will realise he needs a strong performance as he is currently placed 48th on the Order of Merit.
Sean McNamara, last season's third-placed professional, returns to the tour for the first time this year alongside Lindsay Renolds, the course record holder.
It is Richardson who could provide Scotland with the greatest challenge, though, especially as the Englishman tops the current Asian Development Tour table.
"It feels nice to come to a venue where you have enjoyed a bit of success," he said.
"My game is in good shape and I'm really looking forward to the week ahead."
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