Rafa relishing Dubai defence

1/28/2013 8:21:00 AM
Rafael Cabrera-Bello  (Getty Images)
Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Getty Images)

Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello is excited about the prospect of defending a European Tour title for the first time as he returns to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic for the final leg of the Desert Swing.

The 28 year old claimed his second European Tour victory at Emirates Golf Club 12 months ago, adding to his maiden win in the 2009 Austrian Golf Open, which he did not enter the following year, and he is looking forward to rekindling fond memories over the magnificent Majlis course this week.

“I’m very excited but I have no idea what to expect as it’ll be the first time I’ve defended a tournament,” said Cabrera-Bello, who heads to Dubai in good form, having finished tied 23rd in Abu Dhabi and tied 22nd last week in Qatar after an eight under par final round of 64. “Going back there, being on the same course that gave me my biggest win and a very big opportunity, it’s going to be a special moment.

“For me that week meant two big things: one, that I could win a very big tournament with an extremely strong field – I think we had the Number Two, Three and Four in the world; and two, it meant I jumped a long way up in the World Ranking and could get into all the huge world events like the WGCs.

“I gained a lot of experience playing in those bigger tournaments last year, alongside fantastic players on world-class courses.”

Recalling his one shot victory courtesy of a final round 68, Cabrera-Bello continued: “I really enjoyed the last day. I started well and put myself in contention. It was tougher than the other days because the wind had picked up and I was parring many holes, but I stayed patient knowing that pars on a day like that were good.

“I played great on the back nine and the highlights were on the 16th and 17th. On the 16th I went in a bunker with the drive and had a very risky shot to get out. I was arguing with my caddie about what to do, but I went for it and hit it well and managed to save par.

“I felt that shot took the pressure off me and I played the last two holes feeling very calm, and managed to birdie the 17th.

“No one feels completely comfortable walking down the 18th with only a one shot lead, but I knew neither Stephen (Gallacher) nor Lee (Westwood) had made birdie on the 17th so at worst I would be in a play-off. Fortunately I won.

“I really enjoy the Desert Swing and feel very comfortable out here, wearing short sleeves all week in the sunshine and being surrounded by palm trees like I am at home in the Canary Islands.”

If Cabrera-Bello is to become the first player to defend the title and take the lion’s share of the US$2.5million prize fund, he will again have to overcome Westwood, who has finished runner-up three times in this event – last year, in 2010 and in 1999 – and has an enviable record over the Majlis course.

The Englishman will be making his first appearance of 2013, and will be joined by his compatriots Paul Casey and Chris Wood, who claimed his maiden European Tour title in Qatar on Saturday.

Frenchman Thomas Levet will make his 500th European Tour appearance, a milestone also reached by Spain’s Ignacio Garrido in Qatar.