x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Dubai Desert Classic: Rafael Cabrera-Bello shares his superstitions

Sergio Garcia's visionary improvement in his game and Ben Curtis's late showing due to TV times.

Ben Curtis arrived late into the UAE. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Ben Curtis arrived late into the UAE. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Curtis curt about CBS

No one was more irritated by television network CBS Sports wanting the late start to the Monday finish at Torrey Pines in San Diego, California, than Ben Curtis. The foggy conditions at the Farmers Insurance Open forced play to go into a fifth day. The late exit meant only getting into Dubai yesterday morning for the pro-am ahead of the Desert Classic, instead of Tuesday night, giving him little time to prepare.

Creature of habit

The defending champion Rafael Cabrera-Bello begins the discourse with words that seem a little comical. "I am not a big superstitious guy," he said. No, just medium. The Spaniard proceeded to list a handful of examples about just how superstitious he really is. For instance, he has the same locker this week as he did when he won 12 months ago. When he tees off, he puts four sleeves of balls in his bag - three balls apiece - with the numbers one, two, three and four.

Wood's shadow play

Some days, Sergio Garcia seems far older than the number on his birth certificate might indicate. He has been a noteworthy professional since he was a teenager, and it seems hard to believe that he turned 33 three weeks ago. Then again, stories such as the one he heard yesterday must make him feel ancient, though. Chris Wood, the winner last weekend in Qatar when he eagled the 72nd hole to beat Garcia by a stroke, said that when he was a junior player, he shadowed Garcia in person at the 2002 Ryder Cup, hoping he could one day emulate the Spaniard as a top tour player. Wood, 25, said he never had the gumption to inform Garcia of the fact. "I don't know him well enough to tell him that," Wood said yesterday at Emirates Golf club. With the win last weekend, he climbed to No 60 in the world, which if it holds, will land him spots in the World Golf Championships events in Arizona and Florida over the next six weeks.

Garcia's laser sharp

On Garcia himself, the Spaniard had laser surgery on his eyes last November, and while he cannot exactly quantify the improvement, he always believed he had excellent vision, until he had an eye examination and learnt otherwise. He was uncomfortable wearing contact lenses and opted for the surgical route. It might be a contributing factor, along with his fairly new claw grip, in his improved putting. He had the procedure shortly before the European Tour finale in Dubai last autumn. "Now I can see a little bit sharper, so it makes it a little bit easier, but I don't know exactly how much it does help," he said. "But it obviously helped."

Spanish eyes for prize

Three Spaniards in succession have won the tournament title - and the world No 14 Garcia is atop the list of contenders for this week's event. Only Lee Westwood at No 8 has a higher ranking, but he is making his first start of the season.

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