31 May 2018

Rafa Cabrera Bello: Suitcase living is a small price to pay

Keith Pelley has succeeded in offering a viable alternative to the PGA Tour for the biggest players and Europe is the place to be this summer.

I’ve enjoyed a good stretch in the USA with some really big events – the WGCs, The Masters, and finishing with The Players Championship where I had another good week. Not quite as good as my fourth-place finish last year but I was pleased with the way played over the weekend, shooting 67-69. Webb Simpson broke the course record with a 63 in the second round and finished 18-under par, one of the lowest scores in the history of the tournament so when someone does that, you just have to take your hat off to them.

It’s been great over in America but it’s good being back among old friends on the European Tour where we’ve got another run of huge events. The Rolex Series has given the European Tour a big boost with eight events offering a minimum of USD$7,000,000. Those purses compete with many of the PGA Tour events’ prize funds and I think the vision that the European Tour’s Keith Pelley had in creating the Rolex Series in order to give the top players viable alternative to the PGA Tour is really working, especially in a Ryder Cup year where for the European Team, no qualification points are available at any event around the world played at the same time as a Rolex Series.

All the players want to give themselves as many chances as possible to make the team – and that means playing the biggest events in Europe and the USA to improve your ranking on both the European and World Points List.

That’s what I’m trying to do this year and I’m in a lucky position that I am eligible to play all of the biggest tournaments. The downside is that I’m living out of a suitcase most of the time – it’s been that way the whole time I’ve been in the USA and it’ll be the same for most of the summer.

It can be tiring but I wouldn’t have it any other way – not too many players are able to pick a schedule made up of the biggest events on both the European Tour and the PGA Tour so it’s something I feel very fortunate to do. It’s great for my game to experience playing on so many different types of courses around the world and to compete against the best players week in week out.

It was great to get the Rolex Series kick-started at such a fabulous venue like Wentworth at the BMW PGA Championship. We get to visit some great venues on the Series and the best players are all competing for those vital Ryder Cup points, which become even more valuable now as every point is multiplied by 1.5 starting from the BMW to make sure the players that are in form closer to the tournament have more chance of qualifying.

By the time you read this column we’ll have played the second Rolex Series event at the Italian Open and then we have another three back to back starting from the end of June with the HNA Open de France, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and then the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. Obviously, the Scottish Open is the one I’m really looking forward to after winning my first title in five years at Dundonald Links last year. I’ve not played Gullane but it’s a beautiful part of Scotland with lots of great courses along the east coast so I can’t wait to get there.

I feel like I’m in good form heading into the summer and finished tied eighth at Wentworth – my highest finish there – despite not having the greatest start. It was also my 34th birthday on the Friday of the tournament so I got together with my wife Sofia, my manager Richard and a few friends and we had a lovely meal together. It was nice to be there with my nearest and dearest and enjoy a quiet night in after a good day on the golf course. I shot 68 on the day of my birthday – 34 on the front nine and 34 on the back nine…maybe it was meant to be!

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