In-form Spa­niard out to top Race to Dubai

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - adrian@7days.ae

R afa Cabr­era-Bello has mixed emo­tions when re­call­ing his de­but ap­pear­ance at the Ry­der Cup. There is the bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment that comes from los­ing out to Team USA, but there is also the de­light of be­ing part of the Euro­pean team for the very first time.

It was a spe­cial week for the Spa­niard who had al­ways dreamed of em­u­lat­ing his he­roes, the great Seve Balles­teros and Jose Maria Olaz­a­bal.

So de­spite be­ing on the wrong end of a 17-11 de­feat at Hazel­tine, Cabr­era-Bello can­not hide his smile when dis­cussing his time in Mis­souri.

“It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence, prob­a­bly the best golf week of my ca­reer,” Cabreba-Bello told 7DAYS.

“I re­ally en­joyed be­ing part of a team and some­thing much greater than just an in­di­vid­ual.

“Be­ing one of the Span­ish play­ers to have been part of a Ry­der Cup team was spe­cial and just get­ting to bond with all my other team­mates was great.

“Ob­vi­ously we wanted to win to re­tain the Cup but the Amer­i­cans just played great this year and it was hard to beat them. But I know we will get them back in France.” RE­VENGE IN PARIS

That com­ment has been echoed by his Euro­pean team­mates in the weeks since the de­feat. It was a bit­ter pill to swal­low, but Cabre­baBello – who was coach­ing chil­dren in Dubai yes­ter­day – be­lieves many of that 12 will be in Paris in two years’ time try­ing to re­gain the Ry­der Cup.

“Af­ter­wards we all looked at each other and we saw no rea­son why any­one of us wouldn’t make the team in two years,” he said.

“It will be hard for us to be the ex­act same 12 but even if it’s not I think there will be a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion of this team in France.”

While some mem­bers of the Dar­ren Clarke’s side strug­gled with the fiery Amer­i­can sup­port and the pres­sure of win­ning away from home, Cabr­era-Bello ex­celled un­der the tough ex­am­i­na­tion of his game.

The 32-year-old played in three matches and earned two-and-a-half points. He formed a for­mi­da­ble part­ner­ship with good friend and fel­low Spa­niard Ser­gio Gar­cia and com­fort­ably beat Jimmy Walker in the sin­gles. “I ad­mit I

wasn’t the most pun­ished of the Euro­pean play­ers, some of the oth­ers had far worse com­ments,” said Cabr­eraBello when re­flect­ing on the some­times out­spo­ken Amer­i­can crowd. “But I man­aged to cope well and get my mind in a re­ally good zone. I felt con­fi­dent, trusted my abil­i­ties and I was happy with how I per­formed.” MR CON­SIS­TENT

Cabr­era-Bello cer­tainly didn’t per­form like a rookie, but that will have come as lit­tle sur­prise to those on the Euro­pean Tour.

The Spa­niard has been one of the most con­sis­tent play­ers on the tour for the last 12 months. In fact he last missed a cut at the Bri­tish Open in 2015, so more than a year ago.

Since then he has been in con­tention in al­most ev­ery event he has en­tered. There have been two sec­ond-place fin­ishes, a third at the World Match Play, fourth at the French Open and fifth at the Rio Olympics.

So what does he credit for this in­cred­i­ble run of form?

“It’s a com­bi­na­tion of things,” ex­plained Cabr­era-Bello.

“I am more com­plete, stronger men­tally and more pre­pared for ev­ery­thing golf can throw back at me. I don’t think about con­se­quences. I fo­cus more on the process so I don’t go into a week think­ing about win­ning as much as a did be­fore. Now I just try to play golf the best way I can. So I fo­cus solely on one shot at a time and stay in the mo­ment and give my 100 per cent on ev­ery shot. It seems to have been work­ing pretty well.” RACE TO DUBAI’S FRIENDLY RI­VALRY

So well in fact that Car­br­era-Bello is fifth in the Race to Dubai stand­ings.

That means a tour­na­ment in which he is nor­mally re­laxed - the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship - will have some ex­tra pres­sure as he could fin­ish atop the rank­ings, which brings a bonus of $1.5 mil­lion.

His Ry­der Cup team­mates Rory McIl­roy, Hen­rik Sten­son and Danny Wil­lett are cur­rently above him mean­ing there could be some in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions around the Earth course next month.

“We were friends be­fore the Ry­der Cup and we are def­i­nitely bet­ter friends now after,” said Cabr­eraBello be­fore adding with a smile. “We all want to win and try out best but we won’t be yelling any naughty things to each other.”

“It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence, the best golf week of my ca­reer. ” – RAFA CABR­ERA-BELLO

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