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Cabrera Bello wins Spanish duel for Open de España glory

Cabrera Bello wins Spanish duel for Open de España glory

Rafa Cabrera Bello defeated fellow Spaniard Adri Arnaus in a play-off to end his four year wait for a European Tour victory and complete the set of Spanish national championships at the 2021 Acciona Open de España presented by Madrid.

Rafa Cabrera Bello

The 2016 Ryder Cup star entered the final day with a two shot lead but had lost it by the second tee and was two behind Arnaus at the turn after a battling front nine.

A hat-trick of birdies from the 13th had him back in a share of the lead at 19 under and he produced a stunning up-and-down from the sand on the last after a ragged tee shot to save his par and take the contest to extra holes after a 69.

Both men sent their tee shots left on the first trip back up the 18th but Cabrera Bello had the better lie and put his approach to 11 feet to seal a birdie and a fourth European Tour title.

Scot Grant Forrest came home in 28 to finish two shots out of the play-off at 17 under alongside Frenchman Julien Guerrier and India's Shubhankar Sharma.

Cabrera Bello finished second at this event in 2019 to move to 34th in the Official World Ranking but has since slipped to 231st and admitted this week to having felt lost at times over the last two years.

But he struck a positive tone on his arrival in the Spanish capital and now, having won this event at every age level from under-seven to under-18 as an amateur, he can join Spanish greats like Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia and Miguel Ángel Jiménez as a professional winner of his national open.

"It was definitely one trophy that was on my bucket list," he said. "To join my name to all those champions - Alvaro (Quiros) as well that I can think of - it's very, very special.

"I'm very, very happy. I knew it was going to be a really hard battle today and I don't think I need to say that I didn't get off to the ideal start.

"I've been believing in myself, I've had amazing support all this week rooting for me ever since the first minute and I was just hanging in there, I knew I'd have an opportunity and I'm glad that luck swung my way.

"I've loved this city since I came here for the first time but the last couple of years I've felt a really, really special connection with the crowd and the support has helped me a lot.

"I came here in a pretty bad place with scores being not what I expect them to be and to be able to get momentum and turn it around and to walk out of here with a win means a lot to me. Hopefully I can keep going and get back to the player I know I can be."

Cabrera Bello's two shot overnight advantage was instantly wiped out as he found sand with his second and flew the green to concede a double bogey at the first and, while several players joined him at the top, he reclaimed the solo lead with two putts from off the green at the par five fourth.

Arnaus had been one of those sharing top spot as he got up and down at the fourth to cancel out a bogey at the third but he was soon alone in first as he bombed a drive 372 yards at the par five seventh and set up an eagle from five feet.

He then holed a 25 footer at the eighth and the 26-year-old led by two at the turn but he failed to get up and down from the sand at the 11th.

To be able to get momentum and turn it around and to walk out of here with a win means a lot to me. Hopefully I can keep going and get back to the player I know I can be

At that point there were nine players within two of the leader and Cabrera Bello was the one to break out of the pack, birdieing the 13th from 22 feet to reclaim a share of the lead.

Arnaus found the trees with his tee shot on the par five 14th but then hit an incredible second to 15 feet and made his eagle, with Cabrera Bello two putting from 40 feet to limit the gap to one.

The 37-year-old then put an approach to five feet at the 15th and made it a hat-trick of birdies for the second day in a row to sit alongside Arnaus at the summit.

Arnaus carded a closing 67 but was left to reflect on a fourth runner up finish in 72 European Tour starts.

"I felt like I played the golf that I wanted to come out and play," he said. "At the end it was aggressive golf, trying to get all the putts to the hole having all my chances. It just wasn't meant to be I guess but I put myself in a good spot and I can't wait to do it again next week."

Guerrier recovered from bogeys at the second and fifth with birdies on the par fives as he got up and down from the sand at the fourth and made a two putt birdie on the seventh.

He holed from 20 feet at the 13th and nine feet on the 15th to sign for a 69 but could not keep pace with his Spanish playing partners.

Forrest turned in 37 but then hit smart approaches into the 12th and 13th, put his second to six feet on the next for an eagle and holed a pair of 11 footers on the 15th and 16th to fly up the leaderboard.

A wonderful pitch to tap-in range at the last meant he had picked up seven shots in his last seven holes as he signed for a 65.

Sharma was one over after six holes but birdied the seventh and eighth to turn in 35 and left himself a tap-in at the tenth, nine feet at the 12th, 13 feet at the 17th and made a fantastic up-and-down at the last in a 66.

Dutchman Wil Besseling, South African Wilco Nienaber and England's Jack Senior were at 16 under, a shot clear of England's Richard Bland, Italian Renato Paratore and Scot Marc Warren.

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