Craig Ross, considered by many as Scotland’s next superstar, is determined to convert his good form on the MENA Tour by Arena into the one thing that matters most to any sportsperson – a title.
The 26-year-old from Cambunslang finished tied 10th in the opening tournament of the season at Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan, and followed it up with a tied fourth place in Troon Series – Al Zorah Open and was one better at Ghala Golf Club last week.
Ross was leading by three shots going into the back nine at Al Zorah, but an unfortunate double bogey on the 12th hole, followed by bogeys on the 14th and 15th took him out of contention. At Ghala, the diminutive Scotsman closed with 65 and 66, but an average first-round 72 meant he never had a chance to catch up with the runaway winner, Nick Marsh.
However, the 2017 South African Amateur champion firmly believes he is trending in the right direction and would be the man to watch at the spectacular Dubai Hills Golf Club this week when the fourth leg of the MENA Tour – Troon Series – Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines – starts Tuesday.
“I have been hitting the ball well and putting well. I am just going to go into this week hoping for more of the same and win this event,” said Ross, who recorded his first win as a professional at last year’s Clipper Logistics Championship on the EuroPro Tour.
“I have given myself good chances the last couple of weeks but haven’t been able to get over the line. I will do the same things again and hopefully have a chance again on the final day. We will then see what happens after that.
“Last week, Nick was just fantastic. But I had a great opportunity at Al Zorah. When I look back at it, it was just one bad swing that cost me a double. I know that I can pull off that shot and will probably do the same if I were in a similar situation again. I was still leading, but my short game let me down over the next couple of holes.”
It was Ross’ first time out at Dubai Hills during Sunday’s pro-am, and he loved what he saw.
“It is nice. Some great views off the tee. The greens are nice, although tricky. It was quite windy when we played the pro-am, and I have been told we can expect similar wind every day,” said Ross, who is gaining a reputation as one of the biggest hitters on the Tour.
“I think the scores are going to be low if the conditions are flat and calm. The fairways are wide, so you can smash your driver, which suits me. The bunkers are placed strategically, but as I said, the greens are challenging. You need to hit your approach shots with some thought.
“Coming from Scotland, I don’t mind the wind. I don’t hit the ball that low, but I love playing in the wind.”
A full field of 120 players, including 11 amateurs, will begin a 54-hole battle that ends on Thursday, March 7. Also in the fray are England’s Matthew Baldwin (winner, Journey to Jordan-1 and leader of Order of Merit), Australia’s Daniel Gaunt (winner, Troon Series – Al Zorah Open), Nick Marsh (winner, Tournament 3 at Ghala Golf Club), Zane Scotland (the most successful player in MENA Tour history with 10 titles) and Jamie Elson (winner, 2017 Order of Merit).
The amateur field is headed by Rayhan Thomas of India, who became the first amateur winner on MENA Tour by winning the 2016 Dubai Creek Open. The English duo of Curtis Knipes (leading the Amateur Order of Merit) and Dubai-based 14-year-old Josh Hill (second in Amateur Order of Merit).
As part of MENA Tour’s commitment to enhance the playing opportunity for its members, the champion this week gets an invite to the Slovakia Challenge (July 4-7), on European Challenge Tour.
The par-72 Dubai Hills Golf Club is the latest addition to the growing portfolio of golf courses in Dubai. Situated in the Dubai Hills estate with breathtaking views of Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai, the course is designed by European Golf Design and managed by Emaar Hospitality.
The MENA Tour by Arena is returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring and will feature 10 tournaments in 2019. It will continue to provide Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thus making it a perfect pathway for ambitious young professional to the bigger tours, and for the players from the region to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.