x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Such a perfect day out for Cabrera-Bello

Spaniard's flawless round sets the pace at Emirates golf club.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello tees shot a nine-under round in the Dubai Desert Classic yesterday.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello tees shot a nine-under round in the Dubai Desert Classic yesterday.

DUBAI // Four days after the Qatar Masters was cut short because of a shamal across the Arabian Gulf, picture-perfect playing conditions greeted Rafael Cabrera-Bello on the opening morning of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, allowing the Spaniard to shoot a flawless nine-under par round of 63 and lead the US$2.5 million (Dh9.18m) tournament by two shots.

The 27 year old, ranked 119 in the world, carded nine birdies in his first 11 holes at the Emirates Golf Club and then made par on his final seven holes to finish the day at the top of the leaderboard ahead of Marcel Siem of Germany and Scotland's Scott Jamieson, who tied for second on seven-under par.

Cabrera-Bello, who finished third in Qatar last year but 35th this year, said he could hardly have wished for better weather after benefiting from an uncharacteristically calm morning.

"The greens were absolutely perfect," he said. "The ball was rolling exactly how you could picture it, and obviously that helps, and with there being no wind at all makes it a bit easier because it's one thing less that you need to think about.

"It's still tough to shoot nine-under, but obviously the conditions helped. It just made it easier."

Sports psychologists declare the benefits of visualising success, but Cabrera-Bello, the 2009 Austrian Open winner, said he is refusing to look past today and will instead focus on forgetting yesterday's impeccable round in order to start afresh.

"I'm probably going to need to take the nine-under out of my mind and just go play and go look for the same feelings and same confidence and just the same way of enjoying and handling myself on the course," he said. "That's the best way for me to perform."

He added: "I don't think anyone who plays good in any tournament in the first round thinks about winning.

"I'm sure that is one thing you shouldn't do. You only need to think about how many times the first-round leader ends up winning, which I don't think is a very good percentage."

Rory McIlroy, the 2011 US Open champion who won his first European Tour title in Dubai three years ago, finished tied for fourth after making seven birdies in his final 10 holes.

The Northern Irishman said he was aware of Cabrera-Bello's early lead, but was intent on remaining patient.

"It's the first day, so you shouldn't really be thinking about what score is being posted on the leaderboard, but of course, you see nine-under and you know you have to get off to a fast start and [make sure] not to [fall] far too far behind early," McIlroy said.

"But you just have to stay patient and know that if you hit some good shots, your opportunities will come, then you have to try and make a few of them."

McIlroy is tied for fourth with six other players, including Martin Kaymer, the 2010 PGA Champion and three-time winner at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships. The German finished his round with an eagle on the 18th.



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