Rafael Cabrera-Bello made nine birdies in his first 11 holes yesterday to take the clubhouse lead in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic, finishing with a nine-under 63 to sit two strokes ahead of Marcel Siem and Scott Jamieson.
The 27-year-old Spaniard said it was his consistent short game that helped put him in contention for a second European Tour win and first since 2009. He chipped to within three feet on his fourth hole for birdie, then sank a 20-foot birdie putt on his fifth and made a 15-foot putt on his eighth.
“It felt simple. I know it’s not and I know it’s really hard to repeat,” the 119th-ranked -Cabrera-Bello said. “But it felt like everything was going nice and smooth today.”
As he made the turn, Cabrera-Bello said he briefly thought about scoring 59, one shot better than his career-best 60, which helped him win the Austrian Open. However, he ended the round with seven straight pars and said it was too soon to start thinking about winning the tournament.
“I don’t think anyone who plays good in any tournament in the first round thinks about winning,” Cabrera-Bello said. “I’m sure that is one thing you shouldn’t do ... You only need to think about how many times the first-round leader ends up winning, which I don’t think is a very good percentage.”
Siem (65) started by making a long birdie putt on No. 2, then chipped in on No. 6 for the third of his four birdies on the front. The 223rd-ranked German challenged for the lead with three birdies on his last four holes, but then he found the water on the 18th with his second shot and finished with a bogey.
“It was one of my best days of golf, to be honest,” Siem said. “At the beginning, I didn’t hit all the fairways. But on the back nine, I hit all the fairways and my iron shots were all straight at it.”
Jamieson also had a strong round, with the Scot making five birdies and an eagle in a bogey-free 65.
Four players — including Thomas Bjorn of Denmark — are three shots behind Cabrera-Bello. Third-ranked Lee Westwood (69) is six shots off the pace.