The 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner looks to follow in footsteps of Spanish compatriot Jon Rahm with success at Jumeirah Golf Estates
Rafa Cabrera Bello targets more success in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship
Refreshed and refocused, Rafa Cabrera Bello is intent on securing another Spanish success at the DP World Tour Championship this week.
A keen surfer, the Dubai resident has enjoyed some downtime on the waves in Bali, taking a step back from a long season following his tied-14th finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
He has returned to Dubai with a pep in his step, as he looks to close out the 2018 European Tour campaign with another strong showing in the emirate.
Cabrera Bello reigned supreme at the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, one year after compatriot Alvaro Quiros triumphed at Emirates Golf Club. With countryman Jon Rahm defending champion this week, Cabrera Bello is aiming to repeat the feat come end of play at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Sunday.
“That would be very nice,” he said on Monday, on the sidelines of the David Leadbetter Academy Dubai’s official launch at JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort. “That would be very, very nice indeed.”
The portents are promising. A three-time winner on the European Tour, Cabrera Bello has performed well around the Earth Course previously, with his ninth place four years ago providing plenty of grounds for optimism this time around.
The past couple of tournaments, too. Before his tied-14th among a world-class field in Shanghai, Cabrera Bello came home tied-third at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in South Korea. It helped lift his world ranking back inside the top 30 – now at No 26, he had been as high as 16th in July year.
A continuation of that form in Dubai would therefore keep him moving in the right direction.
“I like the course; I obviously know how to score around there,” Cabrera Bello said. “I have had good finishes in the past, been contending for the title a few times. But it doesn’t really raise the expectations.
"I know I can do well and I want to do well, but every week is a new week. Golf is very unpredictable. I’ll just try to do my best, like always. I’m playing good and I’m coming from a couple of weeks off, so batteries recharged and ready to put on a good fight if I can.”
Having split his time between the European Tour and America’s PGA Tour, Cabrera Bello says he is happy with his season on a whole, especially considering the adjustments made to his schedule and a new set of courses to learn. Highlights include his tied-third at the WGC event in Mexico in March, a result that helped him eventually rank 41st in the FedEx Cup standings, up 20 places from last year.
The one blemish, Cabrera Bello says, was missing out narrowly on Europe’s Ryder Cup team, particularly after excelling on debut two years ago.
“That was the only bitter part of the year,” he said, although his absence won’t necessarily drive the bid to return to the team for Whistling Straits in 2020. “Missing the Ryder Cup doesn’t give me more motivation. It’s just the way it was this year - I didn’t play good enough to make the team and the other players deserved to be there.
“I know I was very close - I could have made it with how I played - but it just didn’t work out this year. My motivation is to become a better player, to win more tournaments, to try to put myself in contention in majors and [World Golf Championship] events. That’s the real motivation.”
Those around him see the hunger to improve. As his coach, Leadbetter has faith in the Spaniard, naturally, and envisages Cabrera Bello as a future major champion and top-10 player.
“We hope so,” said Cabrera Bello, whose best finish in a major to date is the tied-4th at last year's British Open. “He believes a lot in me; I believe in myself as well. I’ve put myself in contention a few times, had a few top 10s in majors already, so why not? You just never know.
“I’m sure you’re going to need a bit of luck, and it's just to polish the tiny parts of my game that sometimes let me down a little bit, which is nothing that really stands out. I don’t know. I think when I do it I can tell you better.”