Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Getty Images)
Rafael Cabrera-Bello returns to the scene of his career highlight hoping to become the first player to successfully defend the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The Spaniard held off Stephen Gallacher and Lee Westwood for a one shot victory at Emirates Golf Club, claiming his second European Tour title in the process.
Five further top tens followed as the 28 year old finished a career-best 17th on the 2012 Race to Dubai, and in three starts in 2013 he has yet to finish outside the top 25.
“At the time, I still had not digested it. It was pure excitement really,” he said. “It was definitely the highlight of my career so far.
“Coming back 12 months later I knew I was going to like the feeling, but I didn't know it was going to be so good here, seeing my face all over the place and everything, it's very fun.
“Winning here gave me a quality jump in my game, in my World Ranking. It opened the door to play some of the biggest events in golf such as the World Golf Championships and the Major Championships.
“Playing those was a very new and important feeling for me, because that's where I want to be playing more often. It was a very good year, and also not just because of the win, but also because I got the opportunity to learn a lot and experience playing with the world's best players more often.”
Cabrera-Bello followed Miguel Angel Jiménez and Alvaro Quiros as champions to make it a Spanish hattrick, and the former Austrian Open winner admitted the former had provided plenty of advice during the early stages of his career.
“If there's a secret, I'm not going to tell you because I still want my friends to keep winning,” he joked.
“I think it's pretty much a coincidence. It's very, very hard to win any place, and it's rare for three Spanish guys to win in a row.
“The reason why I play golf is thanks to [José María] Olazábal, who I saw win both Masters in '94 and '99. That's definitely what made me dream about being a pro.
“I also remember growing up watching videos of Seve [Ballesteros]. I didn't get to see him play live in his prime, but I did watch plenty of videos. The way he re-invented golf was obviously something that no Spanish and no European, or no one in the world will forget.
“Sergio [Garcia] was a really good example for us, because he’s like this really, really young kid with great dreams that played great, great golf since he was very young; so he was really someone that we always tried to emulate.
“About Miguel, I do have to say that he's one of the best pros I've met with young guys. I remember my first year on Tour, I looked at Miguel like if he were God pretty much, and he'd just be so relaxed and so humble, that he just came over to speak with us.
“He'd watch us hit balls and he'd spend 20, 35 minutes of his time just giving us tips, trying to teach us stuff. For someone whose first year on Tour, that's unbelievable to have from someone like him.”
Jiménez is an absentee this week after breaking his leg skiing over the winter, but Cabrera-Bello says The European Tour’s oldest winner is making a speedy recovery.
He added: “I got in touch. We both have the same personal trainer and I am aware of how the progress is going. He's making very good and fast progress, which is really, really good.
“He was disappointed not to be here, because these are courses that he really likes, particularly this one where he's won before.”