Rafael Cabrera-Bello, a promising Spanish rookie, has reaped substantial rewards from the most impressive 18 holes of his short career, a round that saw him agonisingly come within a couple of inches of making an eagle putt to become the first player to shoot a magical 59 on the European Tour.
A brilliant finishing score of 60 to the Austrian Open enabled him to overturn a massive overnight deficit of seven strokes on third-round leader Benn Barham to secure his first tournament success since earning his Tour card a year ago. The bumper pay day of 166,660 (Dh900,000) also transformed the 25-year-old from one of the likely failures in the inaugural Race to Dubai into one of the provisional 60 starters for the Dubai World Championship (DWC) at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November. Cabrera-Bello makes a significant jump to 46th place in the exciting "Race" which now has less than two months to run before reaching its high-profile conclusion on Greg Norman's new Earth course.
"It's amazing," he said after smashing his previous record score of 64 as a professional. "I've played the best golf of my life and I can't believe it." Few of his rivals could believe it either after watching the youngster fail to make eight of the last 10 halfway cuts. On this rare occasion of featuring in the finale to a tournament he played without inhibitions, as he reflected: "I was so far back I wasn't thinking about winning. I just tried to play a shot at a time and today it worked out really, really well."
Cabrero-Bello's earnings of 528,776 give him a 78,000 buffer over Frenchman Christian Cavaer, who occupies the 61st position on the wrong side of the dividing line with eight qualifying events remaining. Bradley Dredge, of Wales, is currently the last of the qualifiers but there are bound to be many more ups and downs before the entry list is confirmed for the season-ending showpiece which runs from November 19 to 22.
Leading the guaranteed qualifiers for that lucrative event are three figures familiar to UAE crowds. Germany's Martin Kaymer and England's Paul Casey, winners of the last two Abu Dhabi championships, are within 17,000 of each other as both prepare to break through the 2m seasonal earnings barrier. Their closest pursuer is Rory McIlroy, the young Irishman who recorded his maiden victory as a professional at this year's Dubai Desert Classic.
Barham's chances would have improved considerably had he not squandered such a commanding lead in Austria on Sunday afternoon. Lying in 126th position, he now needs several huge pay packets to make the top 60 cut. Barham, who has not yet earned enough money to avoid a return to qualifying school, admitted it was "very hard to take" after his closing round of 69 left him one stroke adrift of Cabrera-Bello's winning aggregate of 264. "I am very happy with the way I played this week but obviously disappointed to finish second," said the Englishman.