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February 12, 2012

Rafa Cabrera Bello


SARAH GWYNN:  Congratulations on being the 2012 OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic Champion.  How does that sound?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Thank you, thank you.¬† Thank you very much.¬† It sounds very good and it feels even better.
SARAH GWYNN:  How does that compare to your victory almost three years ago?  Rather different circumstances.
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Yes, absolutely.¬† Obviously I wouldn't change either one for the other, but this week has been also a very, very special week.¬† I mean, compared to my last win, the last win really was just a last‑day high and it was completely a surprise to win.
This has also been a surprise to win, but it's been‑‑ I mean, it's been hanging in there since the first day that I started leading.
So both of them were very special, but I think this one, I felt I had to work more for it than the previous one.  This one I had been suffering on the course and obviously enjoying, as well, but I've been working for it since the first day, trying to keep my lead, trying not to lose ground and obviously I mean, playing today, going for it, I'm just really delighted that it went good today.
SARAH GWYNN:  You seemed very calm out there, but what were you feeling inside?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Well, I tried to be calm, of course.¬† There were different moments.¬† From obviously nervous to pressure to chill, as well, coming through the body.¬† But overall I was really enjoying.¬† I love to compete.¬† Competing in golf is my biggest thrill.¬† That's why I decided to turn professional because I really enjoy competing, and today I was enjoying out there.
I was relaxed, I was proud of myself no matter of what the outcome would have been, because I was playing fearless.  That was my goal, just to go for it.  I mean, obviously play smart, as well, but I just really wanted to try to win and obviously if I felt I had a chance, I would try to go for it no matter what happened.
I'm just happy that I was able to stick to my plan, and that I was able to play bold.  And obviously delighted that I had that little bit of luck needed to win.

Q.  What is it about this course and Spaniards?  So many of you seem to have won here.  What is it that causes that?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† I don't know.¬† I mean, I have only won twice on Tour, so maybe you need to ask the other guys who have won more often than me, why is this course special.
Really, I just wasn't thinking of which Spanish had won before here or anything, because I think that could only lead to myself putting more pressure on today's round.  So now I really, really feel happy and proud that my name is going to be written down in the same trophy as Ballesteros and Olazábal and Jiménez and my great friend, Alvaro.
It's a really, really amazing feeling for me to be a little bit a part of the same history they are.  So actually I'm really, really happy about that.

Q.¬† Coming down the stretch, you guys were very bunched up and the three of you together had 17‑under.¬† Did it help you a bit that you were playing in front of those other two guys who were at 17‑under at that time?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† I don't know if it helped me or not.¬† I just felt that me playing in front of them would allow me to punch first, if you can say it, if you can try to say it another way.
I felt that if I could put birdies on before they did, obviously they would play with a little bit more pressure because now they would have to try to tie me.  I was glad I was able to save my par on 16, which I took a tremendous risk to go for it.
And then obviously coming back with birdie on 17, I think it might have helped me.  I don't know what was going through their minds, but I know that playing first was going to allow me to punch first if we end up fighting at the really last holes, and that's how it happened.
Whether it helped me to win or not, I don't know.  That probably might be a question for them.  But I did think that if I was able to birdie, it could help me a little bit.

Q.  You were in always a leading position, psychologically, when was the deepest point and when did you get the feeling you could succeed here?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Obviously you're leading but you're not thinking about the lead.¬† You know that leads in golf, two shots can go very, very quickly.¬† It's a very volatile sport I think.¬† Obviously I was happy of being leading at some stage, but I know that situation could change very, very quickly.
So I just said, listen, I just told myself that you need to keep going, that the guys that are coming behind, they are probably very hungry, as hungry as you are, and if you don't go for it, they are going to go for it and they end up winning.  So if you want to win, you just need to go for it.
Then if it happens, good.  If it doesn't, next time maybe.

Q.  What did it mean to beat Lee Westwood?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Well, it doesn't mean anything particular thing just beating him.¬† I'm just happy that I was able to win and I was even happier to get a win in a very prestigious event.¬† And obviously not just with Lee, whom I admire a lot, but also with all of the big names that were up there contending, like Rory, like Martin, like the other guys that came up, like Stephen, like myself, they are all really, really good players.
And just the fact that I was able today to be successful just proves to me that I'm working on the right line.  It gives me a lot of confidence that I have proven to myself that I can perform at least one week as good as themselves.  It's just a huge, huge confidence and huge morale boost.

Q.  How important was that second round of 69?  Obviously it's difficult to follow up such a low round that you had on the Thursday, the 63, with what was a really good round, as well.  How important was that to set you up for the tournament, and did you make any changes to your game as the conditions got harder over the weekend?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† I mean, that second round was obviously very important, as you said, it's not easy to play after scoring a really, really low round, because obviously you set up higher expectations what you shoot.¬† But my goal for that week was just to try to go out there, forget about the score, and just try to look for the same feelings and the same thoughts that have led me to shoot such a low round the previous day.
I managed to do that.  I was very, very excited with that 69.  Again, it helped me a lot because it felt that I had done a good job the first day but I had also done a very good job the second day.

Q.  Assuming that you could bear to watch when Lee Westwood reached in two and Stephen Gallacher got within about 12 feet for birdie, what was going through your mind?  Were you thinking, I'd better start preparing for a playoff?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† No, I really thought there was going to be a playoff.¬† When I saw that Lee was hitting to the green with an iron, I mean, first of all, when I saw him with an iron, I thought he was laying up.¬† But then I saw him‑‑ I saw it was a pretty long iron.¬† Like it must have been a really impressive drive.
And I did think that there was going to be a playoff.¬† I was just hoping it wasn't a three‑man playoff.¬† Once I saw Lee's chip went past a little too long and his putt didn't go in, I thought, at least it's a one‑man playoff and it's not as hard as a three‑man.¬† I really was just waiting.¬† Obviously didn't want to wish anyone wrong, but I mean, if they missed it right now, it would be really, really convenient.¬† (Laughter).

Q.  This victory will open a lot of doors for you, you should qualify tonight for the Match Play, you have virtually a three year tour exemption now and you're into Shanghai at the etched the year, what do you think this will do for your career?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† As I said this will open a lot of doors and this was really the quality jump in my game I was looking for, and I had been practising hard for it.
And, yeah, it's still a little bit of shock that maybe I got the Match Play a chance and Shanghai.  I really still haven't thought about it and what it's going to mean, but as I said before, I know this win is going to give me the change in my game.  It opens the door to play better field tournaments, try to play with the top, top players of the world more often, and I think that's the best way for me to keep improving.

Q.  You brought up the save at 16, it was very comfortable; if you could describe what you saw and what you had on the second and then a little less on the third.
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† I didn't hit a good drive.¬† I cut it and the wind pushed it right.¬† I was just walking to the ball and when I was walking to it, I said, this is not going to look good.
When I got there, I saw the ball was lying quite good but then I tried to look towards the green and I couldn't see it, it was all trees, trying to find a gap.  At least I saw initially that it couldn't be too tough to get it back on play in the fairway.  But I just did not want to drop a shot.  Had that been maybe two or three holes earlier, I would have played differently, but I know that if I dropped a shot, it would give the guys behind probably a little bit more confidence, and I just really wanted to go for it.
I was trying to find a big gap or something, and I just could not see a big gap.  I mean, I just looked and I had to hit it like underneath a few branches and over another tree.  The good thing is that I was talking to my caddie and I was telling him that the branches didn't look thick.  This is literally what I said, the branches didn't look too thick.  If I didn't hit it exactly where I wanted, I think I could still get lucky and maybe go through and try to save par.
But he told me, no, just play left.  And, I don't know, I just looked at it again.  The ball was sitting up so good.  I just said, okay, I know this is a very risky shot, but don't worry, it's my ball and I'm just going to go for it.
I just didn't go for it to see what happened.  I really believed I could do it.  And then when I hit the ball, I'm just like, please, don't touch anything else.  I don't want to hear any other noise.  And I didn't hear anything, I just started sprinting to the fairway to see if I could tell where it had finished and it had just finished short left of the green.
And then after, that I just tried to tell myself, just, okay, this shot is over, and just relax, you've hit a great shot but that's already the past.  Don't get too euphoric about it.  You need to stay calm and it would be a pity obviously if you wouldn't save par after taking such a big risk.
So just focus on your chip and that's what I did.  I took my time.  I hit a very good chip and knocked it two or three feet past it and saved the par, which was very, very important.  It proved very important.  It gave me that extra edge to play aggressive the next hole, and I hit a really, really good second shot and birdied and that was it.  It was a really, really special hole, yeah.

Q.  When you birdied 17, did you feel that, okay, I've got this victory and it's coming closer?  Did you start feeling it at that point?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† No, obviously I thought I had put myself in a very good position to win.¬† Now I was one in front and I definitely felt that I may be had passed the hot balloon to the other guys.
I still wanted to stay focussed.¬† I really thought that if I birdied 18, I would win, because it would force any of the others to also make two birdies, and that was my goal; to try to birdie 18.¬† It didn't happen, and in the end, it proved sufficient, but yeah, I mean, that birdie on 17, definitely got me‑‑ I mean, when I was playing 18 and I saw that the other two had finished already, they had gone past 17 without birdieing, I'm like, okay, this is the little extra edge I was looking for.¬† I was just happy that I knew that at least I would be in the playoff probably.

Q.  One of most impressive stats of your entire week is the fact that you had 85 per cent greens in regulation throughout the week.  Was this coming?  Did you feel that your game was just there?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO: ¬†I felt that I was playing really, really good.¬† Obviously the first day, just the score says it, that I was playing really good.¬† But the second and third rounds, I really felt I had not been lucky on the greens.¬† I had had lots of chances that really had not dropped.¬† And definitely I was feeling that my game was really, really good.¬† I was playing very, very solid, very confident, and I mean, I was really happy that I was able to keep that confidence for an entire week, not just one or two days.

Q.  If I can just ask, who were you talking to on the phone when you found out?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† I was talking with my parents, my sister.¬† I need to speak with my brother, as well, yet, and my girlfriend.

Q.  What's your girlfriend's name?

Q.  And where is she living?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† She lives with me in the Canaries.

Q.¬† Going on your scores from Abu Dhabi and Qatar, 1‑under in Abu Dhabi and 3‑under in Qatar; obviously it was difficult last week with conditions and everything else.¬† It comes down to putts holed, as well.¬† Obviously your putting has significantly improved, but is it because greens in regulation made that easier for you or do you feel that you found something this week?
RAFAEL CABRERA‑BELLO: ¬†To be honest, Abu Dhabi, I had one bad round which was the first one, I shot 4‑over and after that I think I played very solid the last three rounds.¬† Just my position, final position wasn't too good because obviously the first round I had not played good at all.
In Qatar, I played on the tough side of the draw, so when I finished playing after the second round, I was lying third of all of the guys that had played at the same side as myself but really I was like 17th on the total position.¬† The last day I didn't do great, and that's I didn't finished 35th.¬† I think that I should have finished in Qatar a little bit better or a bit higher, maybe Top‑20, Top 15.
So I was confident coming into this week.¬† I knew I was playing good, and obviously starting with 9‑under the first day, it's just‑‑ it at least guarantees that you're making the cut.¬† (Laughter).¬† I don't know, I was feeling confident.
I did feel that my game was improving and I thought that if I could improve off the tee, then it would help me a lot, because I really‑‑ I mean, the first round here, I hit as many fairways as the entire week in Abu Dhabi.¬† I know that if I can hit it better off the tee, today I didn't do it so good, but I drove it very nicely.¬† That, along with the holing a few putts the first day and some crucial putts today, I think helped me win.
SARAH GWYNN:  Thank you.

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