Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello birdied the last two holes for a stunning nine under par 61 and a two stroke lead over compatriot Gabriel Canizares and England’s Jamie Elson in the MAN NÖ Open at Adamstal Golf Club in Austria.
Carrera Bello, 22, is leading a Challenge Tour event for the first time as he looks to make his mark on the professional ranks after an exceptional amateur career during which he won the European Amateur Championship in 2001 and finished fourth in the 2002 Canarias Open de Espana on The European Tour, aged only 17.
It’s was the lowest round of his career by two strokes. Five birdies in succession helped him race to the turn in 29 and while he was understandably more cautious coming home, he still picked up another three birdies to take the first round lead.
“I just started very well and then had a great finish to the front nine,” he said. “I was a little more nervous on the back nine but gave myself chances and didn’t make any mistakes and managed to hole a couple coming in.”
Canizares put his good form down to an improvement in his putting and some encouragement from his brother, Alejandro, last week in the Spanish PGA Fourball Championship. Alejandro, PAC-10 Player of the Year for the past two seasons, was one of the top college golfers in America playing out of Arizona State. The brothers are continuing a rich golfing family tradition with their father, José Maria, the former Ryder Cup player with five European Tour titles to his name.
An eagle on the tenth, where he chipped in for a two, seven birdies and two bogeys added up to a seven under par 63.
Elson also shot a 63 and similarly pointed out it was his putting that was behind his impressive round and, in particular, the work he has put in with putting coach Paul Hurrion, who also works with European Number One David Howell and Padraig Harrington.
Two 40 foot putts, at the 13th and the 5th, Elson started at the tenth, and a holed wedge from 115 yards pm the seventh, helped propel the former Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup player into a share of second place.