Honma Hong Kong Open

Rafa Cabrera-Bello has that winning feeling ahead of Hong Kong Open

Spaniard has yet to taste victory, but the world number 33 is out to end a solid 2016 on a high at Hong Kong Golf Club this week

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2016, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 12:18am

Sometimes the only thing missing is victory, and that’s why for those who like to read form lines, Rafa Cabrera-Bello stands out as one to watch as we head into this week’s US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open.

The Spaniard freely admits 2016 has so far been an exercise in ticking boxes as he has marked off in rapid succession his first-ever season of playing – and making the cut – in each Major, as well as making his debut for Europe in the Ryder Cup, and then flying his nation’s flag in the game’s World Cup. There was also the little matter of the Olympic Games to add to his achievements – an event where he finished fifth.

There’s been no victory – yet - as the 32-year-old has moved from 144th in the world to his current standing of 33, but Cabrera-Bello has arrived at the Hong Kong Golf Club predicting he just might have the perfect ending waiting for him across the weekend.

“Overall I am just a better player this year,” said Cabrera-Bello. “In every area of my game I feel more complete. I’ve turned into a very consistent player and I can always rely on some part of my game to get me through the week decently.

“The one thing I have not done this year is win, but I have come here fully believing that the Hong Kong Open is a tournament that I can win.”

Hong Kong’s top amateur golfer Terrence Ng knows he has to toughen up physically and mentally as he aims to join pro ranks

The past 18 months have seen – in his own words – a “totally different person” as he has taken on coaching that has focuses as much on what goes on off the course as on.

“There’s been a lot of work with the mental side of my life,” said Cabrera-Bello. “I feel like I have less weaknesses all round now and the hard work is paying off as I become a better all round golfer. I know now how to handle every situation I face far better than I have before.

“It’s been a process of learning to understand my emotions better and have a better attitude no matter what the circumstances.”

The Spaniard was one of the bright sparks in what proved to be a distinctly dull – and losing - European Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine National back in September.

Hong Kong’s major sports events under threat with government set to scrap Mega Events Fund

The records show 2 ½ points out off a possible three collected and Cabrera-Bello says although the end result wasn’t quite what he’d hope for that fact that he simply felt “at home” among the best players in the world filled him full of confidence.

“I know I can play good anywhere against anyone,” he said. “I have had a bunch of top-five finishes this year, but have just missed out on getting the job done on the final day.

“But this has been a year where I have achieved everything I have ever dreamed about in golf expect win. But I feel there might be something special for me here in Hong Kong this week.

“I was last here in 2013 where I went OK but not great [he finished tied for 60th behind compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez] but I know the course and I know what I am capable off and in golf that can take you a very long way.”