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Honma Hong Kong Open

‘The entire crowd loves Spaniards’ at the Hong Kong Open but it counts for little now, says Rafa Cabrera Bello

His countrymen have a rich history in the event but the 33-year-old knows it won’t help him improve on last year’s second place

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 5:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 9:57am

Rafa Cabrera Bello thanks countryman Miguel Angel Jimenez for ensuring the Fanling crowd will be on his side at this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open, but knows past Spanish success means nothing now.

With avenging last year’s runner-up finish top of his to-do list, Cabrera Bello is quick to acknowledge and dismiss the rich Spanish history surrounding the Hong Kong Open in the same breath.

“At the end, it really means nothing, just because another Spaniard won here, it’s not going to help win at all,” the 33-year-old said.

“You still have to hit the shots and make the putts. It is nice, yes, and Miguel has made sure the entire crowd loves Spaniards.

“It’s always motivating to try to write down your name alongside some of the greatest Spanish golfers like Miguel and even my friend Jose [Maria Olazabal], it’s something that you dream about.”

Jimenez is also in Hong Kong and shooting for his fifth win here after victories in 2004, 2007, 2012 and 2013. Another fillip for Cabrera Bello is the chance to notch a second victory in a calendar year for the first time in his career.

He took out the Scottish Open in July during a year that has seen the Spaniard take a big step towards regularly holding his own against the best in the world.

“Normally wins take a long time for me,” he said. “I do feel that I am a better golfer and I am giving myself more chances.

“I’m also playing with the world’s best players more often in the world’s best events. Last year was a good year for me, but I didn’t feel I was really contending in majors or in the bigger events.

“This year, I’ve changed that. I won a Rolex Series event, which is very special. I finished fourth at The Open, I finished fourth at the Players Championship earlier in the year. I do feel my game has improved, so that now I can really be up there in the big events.”

Ranked 20th in the world, Cabrera Bello is looking forward to resuming hostilities with defending Hong Kong Open champion Sam Brazel, who pipped him by one stroke last year.

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“I’m obviously back to play in an event that I enjoyed very much last year,” he said. “It was great to be fighting till the very last second. [I was] obviously disappointed to watch Sam hole the putt [on the 18th] and beat me by one.

“I’m back here to compete and to play the best golf I can and hopefully give myself another chance, ideally with a different outcome. From last year and the other times I’ve played here, I’m getting to know the course better and better.”