I enjoyed a rare weekend off recently and it was a great to spend some time at home in Dubai. What did I do with my time off? I watched some golf of course!
I was lucky enough to have a break in my schedule when two great new events were taking place in the region and I wanted to show my support for both of them.
First up was the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq. It was the first time the European Senior Tour had visited Sharjah and it was a great event.
I got to see several old friends and some Spanish players whom I respect a lot. To meet the likes of Santiago Luna and Miguel Angel Martin – these are people who were in their prime when I started my career so it was very special for me to see them out playing on the European Senior Tour.
I’ve got very fond memories of watching Costantino Rocca’s exploits in the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama, when he beat Tiger Woods to help Europe to victory, so it was exciting to reconnect with those memories while watching him in action in Sharjah.
The tournament was played on a nine-hole course and it seemed to add another exciting element as players had to play each hole twice – which meant they had to revisit holes that they’d dropped shots on earlier in the round. It’s something I wouldn’t be surprised to see happening on the European Tour in the future, although it would have to be a limited field. Our Chief Executive, Keith Pelley, is always looking for new fresh angles for tournaments in order to attract more spectators, sponsors and partners so it could be a possibility.
I think that it would be fantastic if, in the future, the European Senior Tour had its own Middle East Swing like we have on the European Tour which has events in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai. Those tournaments are very well-regarded by the players and I’m sure the Senior Tour members would love the chance to play more in a region that has so many great courses.
The other event I attended was the Long Drive World Series which took place at the European Tour Performance Institute and was great fun. They even got me up to try my luck against UK Long Drive Champion Lucas Dornan. I said I’d only do it if Lucas hit his drives ‘Happy Gilmour’ style, which he did and still managed to beat me!
I’ve never been involved in an event like that before – it was very entertaining and incredible to see how far the competitors could hit the ball. I think it’s wonderful for Dubai to have as many of these exciting new events as possible, it adds another aspect to the golf scene and I’m sure it will attract more spectators to golf. These guys use a whole different technique to hit the ball as far as they can whereas us professional players try to hit it far but with control.
Back to my own game and I’m excited about playing in the Masters for a second time. I enjoyed my debut last year and think I played well (Rafa finished tied 17th, the highest finish by a Spanish debutant in the history of the tournament.)
Just checked my weeks stats….. 19 birdies and 1 eagle, for a total of -1 …… roller coaster week is an understatement! #HIO2017
— Rafa Cabrera Bello (@RCabreraBello) March 12, 2017
I was just a few shots off the lead in the third round but unfortunately the conditions were very difficult that day and the greens were extremely tough. Nevertheless, I was very proud of my performance and the experience I gained last year will help me to play better this year. You need to know the Augusta golf course very well – it’s a very demanding course and it requires quality in all the characteristics of the game, such as driving, iron play, chipping and putting. Having experience and knowing all the nuances of that course is very important.
One of my most endearing memories the Masters from when I was child was watching Seve Ballesteros’s two wins at the tournament. Watching those wins was what inspired me to become a golfer.