Playing partners Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Simon Dyson put themselves firmly in contention at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after driving each other to matching four under par 66s in the first round at Firestone.
Spaniard Cabrera-Bello, who already has one big win to his name this season in the form of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic title he captured back in February, teed off from the tenth tee in the first group of the afternoon starters alongside England’s six-time European Tour Champion Dyson, and the European pair were inspiring each other’s progress from the offset at Akron’s famous country club.
Both men made birdies at the par four 11th after starting with pars, before trading blows across their front nine as Cabrera-Bello turned in 32, three under par, while Dyson dropped his first shot of the day at the 18th hole to finish the front nine two under par for the round.
They were soon back alongside each other and on top of the leaderboard at that stage too, though, as Dyson put together a hat-trick of birdies from the second to the fourth to move to five under par with Cabrera-Bello after the Gran Canaria native had also found further birdies at the second and third.
And despite dropping a shot each on the closing three holes – Dyson at the short seventh and Cabrera-Bello at the closing par four ninth – both of the all-European Tour twosome were quick to praise the stimulating influence of each other’s play on Thursday.
“We helped each other along nicely, just bouncing off each other,” said a satisfied Dyson. “We both parred the first; both birdied the second; I birdied the third, he birdied the fourth; I birdied 15, he birdied 16; just stuff like that. We helped each other along well, and it was enjoyable.”
Cabrera-Bello agreed: “It's good because things are going good for both of you, so you just get a positive attitude and you start seeing things easier than what they really are and start playing easier golf.
“You don't get distracted because you're playing fast and everything is going great. So it's obviously good; I always prefer it.”
Dyson, whose best performance this year came with a tied tenth finish at June’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush, has played the last two Bridgestone Invitational events but found the conditions somewhat different to his previous appearances at Firestone.
“This is my third time, but it's the easiest I've played it,” Dyson reflected. “It's firm; I've played it in previous years and it's been really wet and played every yard of its distance; whereas today I was getting it down the slope so you're getting an extra 40 yards.
“Because of that you're going into greens, tough greens, with wedges and nine irons as opposed to five and six irons from previous years. But the course is magnificent.”
Having been battling a stomach virus in the build-up to the event, Cabrera-Bello, making his debut at the championship, said that despite his relatively unknown status across the Atlantic his first round performance came as no surprise to him.
“I know I can play very good, I've done it before,” he said. “I've proved it to myself on several occasions but up until now I just haven't been able to put a good round together in one of the biggest tournaments.
“But I know I can play well so it's just a matter of time. It’s just to get feeling more comfortable here and maybe this will be the round that helps me play better at the bigger events.”
With Jim Furyk setting the first day pace with a sublime seven under par 63 and England’s Lee Slattery a further two shots back after an excellent 65, the pair are well positioned heading into Friday and Cabrera-Bello took straight to Twitter after the round.
“Looking forward to tomorrow's round already!! Well played buddy!” he said to Dyson across the social network.
More of the same on Friday from this blossoming friendship?