The Hong Kong Open

Hong Kong Open has special meaning for Spanish golfers, says Rafa Cabrera Bello

The world number 20 says past successes by Jose Maria Olazabal, Lara and Jimenez makes it a tournament that Spaniards want to win

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 6:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 9:09am

Last year’s runner-up Rafa Cabrera Bello said the UBS Hong Kong Open held a special place in the hearts of Spanish golfers because of their success in past events.

The 33-year-old from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, is hoping to go one better than in 2016 when he finished second to Australian Sam Brazel by one stroke at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.

“Every Spaniard really wants to win in Hong Kong because of our past winners, with [Jose Maria] Olazabal and Miguel [Angel Jimenez] has had a lot of success there,” said Cabrera Bello.

“It is one of our favourite events in Asia and Hong Kong, as a city, has so much to offer. So for us Spaniards it’s one of the tournaments we really want to win.”

Watch Rafa Cabrera Bello’s perfect tee shot on the 10th at Fanling

Olazabal was the first Spanish golfer to win the Hong Kong Open, in 2001, and since then Spaniards have won five times at Fanling – with Jimenez winning four titles in 2004, 2007, 2012 and 2013. Jose Manuel Lara won the 2006 tournament.

Former champion Justin Rose commits to next month’s Hong Kong Open, but International Races off the cards this time

For Cabrera Bello to win in Hong Kong this year, he needs to overcome some tough opposition, including compatriot and US Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the world number 12. Brazel returns to defend his title, while 2015 winner and former US Open champion Justin Rose, ranked sixth in the world, and world number 19 Tommy Fleetwood – both of England – are also due to play in Hong Kong.

“I think it’s a great tournament,” said Cabrera Bello, who finished tied for fifth at last week’s World Golf Championship event in Shanghai, where Rose won in stunning fashion after overcoming an eight-shot deficit on the final day.

“I really like the course, I have good memories there and the crowd really likes to get involved. Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities and my form is good coming into the tournament.

“I would have had a three-week break after playing in Malaysia and Shanghai. It’s been a hard year for me but I absolutely still feel fresh and want to keep going.”

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Cabrera Bello goes into the UBS Hong Kong Open as the 20th-ranked golfer in the world, compared to 32 last year, but with an enhanced reputation after victory at the Scottish Open and finishing in a tie for fourth at this year’s British Open.

The Spaniard, though, said he would prepare for the tournament in the same way.

“Last year, I had a really good year as well and went into the Hong Kong Open in good form,” he said. “Obviously, as a golfer it’s really hard to predict form because there are so many variables and it’s impossible to say how well you are going to play.

“My approach will be no different than last year. I will be higher in the rankings and that will give me extra confidence but all I know is that if I play good I will be rewarded.

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“It’s a tough field with Sergio definitely in good form and his breakthrough in winning a major. And Justin will be in good form as well. It’s always a strong field in Hong Kong, I cannot predict how I will play in one month’s time but I will be mentally and physically prepared to play on a course that I enjoy playing on.”