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January 25, 2017

Rafa Cabrera Bello

Doha, Qatar

BRIONY CARLYON: Good morning everyone, and especially welcome to Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who joins us for the 20th anniversary of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

You've obviously enjoyed your time here. This is your 8th year you've come back to this tournament. You went close last year in a second-place finish and third, as well. For a couple of times. Can you talk us through what you love about this tournament and why you keep coming back?

RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: Yeah, I like it. I think it's a great test of golf. We normally play very, very windy conditions. It's very testing because the greens can get very dry very fast, very quick, and they are also hard to read with the grain, as well.

But especially the wind. I think off the tee, it tends to be a forgiving course. But I do like the design. I like the exciting finish it has on the last few holes. Having many birdies on 16, 18, even 17, as well. I think it's a very, very complete and exciting tournament, and the wind factor makes it very challenging.

BRIONY CARLYON: You've had some time, as well, away, a break over Christmas, a very successful 2016. How do you move ahead and look towards 2017? What's your preparation for now?

RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: 2016 was the best year of my career. I was very happy with everything a accomplished last year. I had a well-deserved break, a little bit of time off. Get the mind off golf and enjoy other things.

But now I'm happy to be back. I was happy to start last week to get the actual calendar year going again. My goals are to keep improving, keep moving higher up on the World Rankings and this year, I'm also going to be playing the PGA TOUR, as well. So it's going to be a bit of a challenge to manage both but I will still have a strong presence here in Europe.

Q. You did some work with David Leadbetter in Dubai recently. Just talk a little about what you worked on, and did you do anything particular in preparation for this course, if the wind gets up and that kind of thing?
RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: No, I work with my coach, David, we've always worked to gradually improve my swing little by little, and I'm happy with how my swing looks and how it holds up under pressure. Of course, I always try to make it better, but nothing -- not a drastical change or anything. Just always being true to my way of swinging the club, and just more detail. Just gradually working in the transition from the backswing to the downswing. My hips tend to get a little quick and ahead of my upper body, so we are trying to sync that batter.

Q. You had your first outing of the year last week in Abu Dhabi. What's your reflections on how it went?
RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: I was very happy with the way I played. I mean, after -- we have a long break once a year, but you never really quite know how you're going to react. I felt very comfortable. I felt very much in control of all the parts of my game. Played really solid golf, especially Thursday and Friday.

Unfortunately Saturday I wasn't feeling very fit. I had a bad night's sleep and woke up with a bit of a tight muscle in my back, and I couldn't really swing as comfortable as I could. I'm not using that as an excuse or anything. I'm just saying those are the facts; that's what happens. It wasn't an injury that was worrying as it could be, but just a bad night's sleep that could happen to anyone.

It was unfortunate that it happened when I was just one shot off the lead on a Saturday, which is the situation you really want to put yourself in. Managed to get through that day the best I could, and then Sunday I felt I played good again. Didn't quite manage to score. Maybe I was going for it a little too hard, and ended up making a couple mistakes on the par 3s on the front nine.

But besides that, overall I was happy with my game, my attitude and in general the play. Overall I can't complain too much about that.

Q. You've been frustrated trying to get your third European Tour title. You've had a lot of runner-up finishes, but considering how well you played in 2016 and considering your record on this course, do you think this gives you as good an opportunity for that third victory as anywhere else?
RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: Yes, I mean, I agree with you. I've had some modest success on this course before. I've played good and I feel I'm currently hitting the ball good and performing good. This would be a great chance to get the win.

I mean, I know I finished runner-up and been up there contending many, many times. Not necessarily all those runner-up finishes give me a bitter taste when I remember them. Some of them were great finishes to manage to sneak a runner-up, and yes, others were where I was leading and I faded away. I just know that if I keep putting myself in that position, it will happen.

Q. Any comments on your draw? You're playing with Ernie Els and Alex Noren.
RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: Yeah, two fantastic, great players. Ernie Els, unbelievable history. And Alex, a good friend, we've known each other since amateur days, and obviously the spectacular year he had last year. I think it's going to be a very exciting two days.

Q. This is a very different challenge from last week. What would you say is the sort of key to playing well on this course?
RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: The wind is definitely a factor. It could be a little bit of luck in the first two days with the draw, or even over the weekend; the mornings tend to be very, very calm, and afternoon it really picks up and blows.

I do think this is a course where you need to be extra patient. I mean, when it's 20, 30 miles an hour gusts, some things are going to happen that you're not going to like, and you're going to hit good shots that end up way short of the green, or good putts that get hit by a gust of wind and end up missing.

So just stay patient throughout the day and wait for your chances. I do think there are some holes that tend to be very score arable, especially the par 5s and the short par 4, I think you really need to take advantage of them. Because if it's going to be windy, it's going to be hard to score and tough to make birdie on the other regular holes.

There's key holes, maybe 1, maybe 2, probably 9, 10, 16 and 18. If you can take advantage of those holes, I think you can put in a good round regardless of how windy it is. If you don't take advantage of those, it's going to be hard to score.

Q. You've always been a very good European Tour player. Last year you went to a different level in global events, obviously playing well at the Olympics, standing out in your Ryder Cup debut. Playing also on the PGA TOUR, what was it that changed in your game or even in your mind-set that has taken you to this next level of golf?
RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: I don't think it's just been one thing that has changed. I think it's just a lot of little factors that have helped.

Obviously I've gained more experience. I've gained experience the hard way, which is bad performance or bad experiences, so you always learn more from those. I think I'm mentally more prepared. I'm mentally tougher, as well, to withstand whatever happens on the course.

And also, the technical and physical aspect, I think I'm more prepared and more aware of my swing and just fitter and better prepared to swing better and perform more consistently throughout the full year.

Q. And do you have any worries, playing on the PGA TOUR; will you change anything in your approach, or what have you learnt?
RAFA CABRERA-BELLO: No, it just changes my scheduling of events. But the rest, the way I play golf, the way I see I play golf, I'm going to try always to play the same way. When I gain more experience over there, I will see which courses suit me better, which weeks I enjoy more. But that won't happen just this year. I mean, that will happen within the next couple years.

I know it's a risk. Other players have taken the risk and played on both tours and it has not necessarily gone well for them. I feel I am ready for the challenge. I don't know how it's going to go, but I do think that being top 30 in the world as I am now, I have a certain tranquility knowing that I will be within the top 50 in the world throughout most of this year, regardless of how I perform. And that does allow me not to overplay; not end up playing 35 events just because I drop out of majors and WGCs.

I mean, I come off the best year of my life, the best form of my life, as well. So I think it is the right moment for me, if I ever wanted to try the challenge, to try it now. I think I can do good. I think I did good last year when I played over there. I'm obviously very comfortable and can play good over here, as well, in all types of courses, in the desert, when we have played in the cold, as well.

I feel I'm a more complete player now. There will always be a learning curve, but I think I'm in a good position and I'm in a confident position for the challenge.

BRIONY CARLYON: Thank you, everyone. Thank you, Rafa, and all the best for this week.

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