Zane Scotland staged a tremendous charge to win the Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open, the first event on the MENA Golf Tour, at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club on Wednesday.
Starting the day two shots off the pace, the former European Tour player showed flashes of brilliance, closing with a blazing 67 – the tournament’s best round — to go eight under for the $50,000 event, beating overnight leader and hot favouite Yasin Ali by one shot.
Yasin, who carded a final-round 70, needed a par on the 18th to force a playoff, but agonizingly three-putted for a bogey from the edge of the green to hand Scotland a victory he will cherish for a long time to come. Morocco’s Younes El Hassani birdied the last to finish third on five under 211.
Shaikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Arab Golf Federation, presented the trophy and the winner’s cheque for $ 9,000 to Scotland in the presence of Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour.
Just when it appeared Yasin was on cruise control, Scotland produced something special – a birdie on the 14 which was followed by an eagle on the 15th – to close the gap on the leader. A bogey on the 16th threatened to undermine his brilliant efforts, but he held his nerve and picked a crucial shot on the 17th before walking off with a new course record.
“I knew I was in with a chance, and the experience of playing on the European and Asian Tours did come handy,” said Scotland. “The key to winning was that birdie and eagle finish on the 14th and 15th. I have played this course before and hence had a bit of local knowledge too – and that helped me in the end.
“I have been playing really well these days and know how to deal with pressure. Yasin is quite an experienced player and I have a lot of respect for him. We all enjoyed competing in this tournament. I have played in Europe and Asia and can tell from my experience that this tour is up there with the best.
“I would like to thank the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation for their initiative in organizing the Tour. The competition was really intense. The players from Morocco and Pakistan, in particular, are really good. They strike the ball as well as anybody,” said Scotland who is associated with Yas Links Golf Club.
A steady Yasin required a birdie on the closing hole to clinch the issue, but inexplicably three putted for bogey. “Frankly, I didn’t know whether I needed a birdie or a par. But this is no excuse. I was on the green and should have parred the 18th, but that didn’t happen. I pushed it a bit to the right from about five feet.
“The end result notwithstanding, I enjoyed playing in this tournament. Everything about it was just perfect,” said the Englishman.
Morocco’s El Hassani was equally pleased with his overall efforts. “I should have finished better, but then this is golf, you have to be very consistent all days if you aim to seal a victory. I played good, but not good enough to win,” said El Hassani, who closed with a 71.
Morocco’s Ahmed Marjan followed his back-to-back 76 with a solid 70 to emerge as the leading amateur. Bahrain’s leading amateur Daniel Owen, who was off a great start with a 68 to the lead the field on the opening day, failed to keep the momentum going and settled for a middle-of-the-pack finish on eight over 224.
The next event on the MENA Golf Tour, the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, will be held at the Tower Links Golf Club from Monday.
208 – Zane Scotland (England) 69, 72, 67
209 – Yasin Ali (UAE) 70 69 70
211 – Younes El Hassani (Morocco) 69 71 71
213 – Ross Bain (UAE) 72 69 72
215 – Sean McNamara( Thailand) 73 73 69
216 – Anil Shah (Kenya) 72 72 72
217 – Shafiq Masih (Pakistan) 69 71 77, Ross Canavan (Thailand) 72 74 71
218 – George Perry (US) 73 70 75, Andy Andrews (UAE) 73 75 70, Aadil Jehangir (Pakistan) 70 72 76, Abdel Kader El Hali (Morocco) 71 72 75, Greg Nicolson (Scotland) 77 70 71
219 – Dale Marmion (UAE) 71 73 75, Matloob Ahmed (Pakistan) 73 73 73.
Leading amateur: Ahmed Marjan (Morocco) 76 76 70 (222)