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January 30, 2013

Rafa Cabrera Bello


SARAH GWYNN:  Welcome back to the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic.  Let's just rewind 12 months and remember how you were feeling that day when you won here.
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Well, obviously very, very happy.¬† Probably like at that time, I still had not digested it.¬† It was pure excitement really.¬† I mean, really, really enjoyable.¬† It was definitely the highlight of my career so far.
So I mean, coming back here, 12 months later, I really didn't know what to expect, because even though I had won before, I didn't get the chance to defend my title.  So I was just coming here completely unexpected.  I knew I was going to like the feeling but I didn't know it was going to be so good here, seeing my face all over the place and everything, it's very fun, yeah.
SARAH GWYNN:  That must have done a lot for your confidence; you went on to have a fantastic season last year.  How did that affect your game, that victory?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Well, I think that I've said it before - winning here, that gave me a quality jump in my game, in my World Ranking.¬† It opened the door to play some of the biggest events in golf such as the World Golf Championships and the Major championships.
So, I mean, playing those was a very, very new and important feeling for me, because that's where I want to be playing more often.  It was a very good year, and also not just because of the win, but also because I got the opportunity to learn a lot and experience playing with the world's best players more often.
SARAH GWYNN:  And how is your game feeling right now coming into this week?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† It's feeling good.¬† I played three tournaments this year.¬† I finished ninth, 22nd and 23rd, so that's pretty consistent.¬† So I'm happy that the consistency is still up from last year, so just hoping for this week to try to finish a little bit better.¬† But I mean, at the moment, I'm working on some things on my swing and everything.¬† I think that they are little by little starting to pull together.
Hopefully I can play good again, but it's just a matter of whether the putts end up dropping or not at the end.

Q.  A great round in the final round of Qatar Masters, and coming into a tournament where you're defending your title, how does a round like that feel in the build up towards this tournament?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Well, it feels very good, of course.¬† I mean, in the end, it's really only a round.¬† I know I played really, really good, shot 8‑under, which normally on any Sunday is an extraordinary round.
But I mean, for me, it wasn't only just the‑‑ well, in this case, it was a Saturday, but just so we don't get confused, just call it a Sunday.¬† Friday, which was Saturday, I also played really good.¬† I started with an early double‑bogey but then managed to play really good throughout the entire round.¬† I was 4‑under with four or five holes to play and then I had a bad finish and end up like losing all the advantage that I had created.
But, I mean, I tried to take the positives.¬† I know that I had played good that day; that I could play good the next day, and I just‑‑ that's what I tried to do.¬† I played and then it all happened.¬† I started really, really playing really solid, giving myself lots of comfortable birdie chances and making them.
So I mean, obviously, take the positives, but it's only a round.  This week is a completely different new story, and we have to see what happens.

Q.  How does it feel returning here?  Do you feel any added pressure defending your title or does coming back to the course here give you extra, I guess not motivation, but remind you of fond memories and give you that added confidence to put up another good score this weekend?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Well, so far, I've been feeling a little bit of both.¬† Obviously coming here, it has‑‑ it brings up lots of great memories, great feelings, really, really good experiences, lots of confidence, because it's a course I like; I've played good before.¬† Every time I'm playing a hole here, I have a great memory from last year from that hole.
So I mean, definitely that is happening.  Whether the added pressure or not, that's now up to me to be able to control it.  If I go out there tomorrow expecting to play great, expecting everything to go like last year, that's probably going to be added pressure on myself and it's not going to be any helpful.
In the end, like I've tried to say, the minute I tee off, it's going to be a new tournament and I'm going to try to forget that I won here last year and I'm just going to focus on what I need to do at the time and just try to play one shot at a time, regardless of who I'm playing with; I'm defending or not defending, that really goes into a second or a third‑‑ but it's not in any way higher in my priority list.

Q.  Three Spaniards have won here in a row; is that a coincidence, or is there a secret that we don't know that perhaps benefits Spanish play?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† If there's a secret, I'm not going to tell you because I still want my friends to keep winning (smiling).
No, I think it's pretty much a coincidence.  It's very, very hard to win any place, and it's rare for three Spanish guys to win in a row.  I do have to admit that coming here to Dubai, I think we all Spanish players like it.  Normally it's good weather.  It's similar conditions to what we get in Spain.  We play in short sleeves.  We play with the sun.  It could be breezy, which is something that we are also used to.  It's a factor that makes us feel like home, and in my case, I know if that happens, and I'm sure that to Alvaro, Miguel, it's also happened that way.  Maybe it helps a bit but in the end, I still think it's just pure coincidence, yeah.

Q.  Is the course similar to Spain, to like courses you play in Spain?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† No, I mean, there's not that many desert‑style, desert‑type courses in Spain.¬† I mean, this is a great design and the golf courses in Spain, we also have great designs.
I think the biggest factor could be the weather that makes us feel like home.

Q.  I saw your Tweet about having the same locker number as last year?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† I need to be careful with my Tweets (laughing).

Q.  Are you a superstitious guy, is that something that you think about a lot, and if so, are there any other things you're trying to do the same this week as you did last year?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† No, I'm not a big superstitious guy.¬† I might have like, for example, the only thing that I'm really a little bit picky about is before I tee off, I have an exact dozen, in three No. 1s, three No.2s, three No. 3s and three No. 4s in my bag, because I just didn't know‑‑ I used to play that. I play good with Titleist two, Titleist four, and I didn't want to have to choose and now I just stick my hand in the bag and shuffle it and whatever comes out, that's the number I'm playing with.¬† That's the only superstitious thing that I have.
And just the Tweet was, it was a bit of fun saying, hey, it worked last year and I'm not going to change it, just in case.  But not really, except for this thing that I just said, I'm not really a superstitious guy, no.

Q.¬† Can you just elaborate on what you've been working on in the off‑season and in the buildup to this tournament, and is there something in the modern game which you think the top players are practising more and more to keep at the top?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† The thing we always want to get better at is short game.¬† The better you get in short game, the more the improvement you're going to be able to take it on towards your final score.¬† I think I have a good short game.¬† I obviously also want to make it better, make it a little bit more consistent.
But then on the off‑season, the time we had off, what I was working most was a bit on swing changes.¬† Sometimes I tend to overswing a little bit more than what I would want to, so I'm trying to shorten the length of my backswing and keep everything more connected with the body.
And on the follow‑through, it's trying to‑‑ I mean, my hips tend to uncoil relatively fast and I end up losing a little bit of balance and in the end, speed; when I hit the ball, lose a little bit of distance with that, so I'm trying to work on that and try to get my weight transfer more synchronised with the body.¬† Those are the two basic things I've been working on, yeah.

Q.  I know you've touched on it briefly before, but just get an insight into your relationships with your fellow Spaniards on Tour.  Does Miguel or Sergio, have they played a mentoring role in your career at any point in time, or what's your relationship like with those more experienced guys?
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Like my case, like the reason why I play golf is thanks to Olaz√°bal, who I saw him win both Masters in '94 and '99.¬† That's definitely what made me dream about being a pro.
I also remember growing up watching videos of Seve.¬† I didn't get to see him play live in his prime, but I did watch plenty of videos.¬† And the way he re‑invented golf was obviously something thatno Spanish and no European, or no one in the world will forget.
And most recently, like Sergio was a really good example for us, because it's like this really, really young kid with great dreams that played great, great golf since he was very, very young.  So he was really someone that we always tried to emulate.
About Miguel, I do have to say that he's one of the best pros I've met with young guys.¬† I mean, I remember my first year on Tour, yeah, of course, I look at Miguel like if he were God pretty much, and he'd just be so relaxed and so humble, that he just come over, speak with us.¬† He'd watch us hit balls.¬† He'd spend 20, 35 minutes of his time just giving us tips, trying to teach us stuff, and that's‑‑ I mean, for someone whose first year on Tour, that's unbelievable to have from someone like him.

Q.  Did you get in touch with Miguel after his accident, and is he really missing the Desert Swing?  He really loves it here.
RAFA CABRERA‑BELLO:¬† Yeah, of course I got in touch.¬† I called him and wanted to know how severe the injury had been.¬† We both have the same personal trainer and I am aware of how the progress is going.¬† He's making very good and fast progress, which is really, really good.
And then, yeah, of course, he was disappointed not to be here, because these are courses that he really likes, particularly this one where he's won before.
So he's just working really hard.¬† I can tell you he's starting to get‑‑ he'll be fitter than ever when he comes back, and I mean, I'm just happy that his morale is very high and he's working very hard to be back as soon as he can.
SARAH GWYNN:  Thanks very much, Rafa, good luck this week.

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