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Cabrera-Bello eyes a first at the Classic

Holder hopes to build on Spanish surge in prestigious event

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Rafael Cabrera Bello of Spain play a shot on the final day of Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday.
Gulf News

Dubai: Rafael Cabrera-Bello aims to become the first back-to-back winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic when he returns to defend his title at Emirates Golf Club this Thursday.

Since the tournament’s inception in 1989, no player has won the title twice in a row, though South Africa’s Ernie Els (1994, 2002 and 2005) and Tiger Woods (2006 and 2008) have inscribed their names on the trophy more than once.

Las Palmas-born Cabrera-Bello, 28, produced scintillating golf to upstage three of the world’s then top four — Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer — en route to winning the $2.5 million (Dh9.18 million) event last year. One behind Westwood overnight, Cabrera-Bello carded a bogey-free 68 to reach 18-under and triumph by a solitary stroke, thus becoming the fifth Spaniard to win the longest-running European Tour event in the region, after Seve Ballesteros in 1992, José María Olazábal in 1998, Miguel Angel Jiménez in 2010 and Alvaro Quiros in 2011.

“I don’t know what the connection is, but what I know is that there are more and more Spaniards on the tour and they are all playing better and becoming more competitive,” said Cabrera-Bello.

“I am sure Seve Ballesteros would have been very pleased to see Spanish golf in such a strong position. It’s an honour to have your name written on the same trophy as Seve and other greats. The victory has given me a lot of confidence and, hopefully, I will be able to further build upon that.”

He added: “I love playing in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and it’s one of the most prestigious events on the [European] Tour, known for attracting a strong field every year.”

Mohammad Bu Amim, vice chairman and CEO of event organisers Golf in Dubai, said: “We look forward to welcoming our defending champion, who is easily one of the most popular players on the tour because of his easy-going and friendly nature.

“If Spanish golf is in good health, it’s because of rising stars like Rafael, whose mission it is to continue Seve’s glorious legacy. I wish Rafael the very best and hope he has a wonderful stay in Dubai.”