Spain’s Rafa leads the pack in Qatar

January 24, 2014 - 5:21:51 am

Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello celebrates a putt on day two of the $2.5m Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club yesterday. The 29-year-old Spaniard is the sole leader after two rounds of the European Tour event. 

BY RIZWAN REHMAT

DOHA: A birdie blitz yesterday helped Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello go past overnight leader George Coetzee of South Africa at the $2.5m Qatar Masters.

Eight birdies - five of them posted in the last seven holes - saw Cabrera-Bello card seven under par 65 yesterday at the Doha Golf Course (DGC) where Coetzee was pegged back to second spot following a sluggish three under par 69.

The Spaniard has an overall card of 13 under par 131 while Coetzee is sitting pretty at 11 under par 133.

Englishman Matthew Baldwin (six under par 72), Sweden’s John Carlsson (seven under par 65) and Steve Webster (three under par 72) are tied in third spot for an overall score of 10 under par 134 after contrasting battles at a sun-bathed DGC.

Winner in Abu Dhabi last week, Pablo Larrazabal of Spain missed the cut set at 143 as did former champion Thomas Bjorn. Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jiminez also failed to impress and failed to reach round three.

Englishman Tom Lewis, France’s Romain Wattel, Finland’s Mikko Ilonen and South Africa’s Thomas Aiken ended round two at nine under par 135.

Cabrerar-Bello said he didn’t think 13 would be unlucky for him.

“I don’t think 13 is an unlucky number around this course. I’m really happy, really pleased, and everything’s going good,” the Spaniard said. “I’m enjoying myself.

Doing well in the Middle East makes Cabrera-Bello feel at home.

“It definitely feels like home,” Cabrera-Bello said when reminded of his title win in Dubai. 

“I like playing in short sleeves a lot. I like a little bit of breeze. I like seeing palm trees. I like seeing sun around the courses. It does remind me a lot from the Canaries, and it’s kind of like, I start playing at the end of the year here, and I don’t feel that I’ve left home, so that’s why I enjoy it so much.” 

The Spaniard said he would keep things simple in the third round today.

“I will do my normal routine, and Friday is just a new day. We start from scratch, play one shot at a time and just go out there and keep enjoying myself,” Cabrera-Bello said. “I’ve been doing it for this week and last week a lot, so I just want to enjoy the opportunity of being up there, being in contention. I want to enjoy that every shot matters and I just want to savour that and try to perform as good as I know I can,” he added. 

Also yesterday, American veteran John Daly was bunched together with a group of six golfers with an overall card of eight under par 136. 

Daly yesterday carded three under par 72 following a 67 in the first round on Wednesday.

Carlsson, meanwhile, fired eight birdies and then added an eagle for an impressive 65 yesterday.

“I am happy I got the putter going,” Carlsson, who stuttered with three bogeys, said. 

“(It) always helps when you get the putter going, everything seems so much easier. 

“Since I had the first tournament, I was seventh and obviously that brings a little bit of calm to keep going,” Carlsson said reflecting on his season so far. “It’s just I haven’t missed a cut in a long time, even on the Challenge Tour.

“So I am focussing on the right things. Now when I play, I just let it flow. So I am looking up instead of down,” he added.

Wattel, who posted 68 yesterday after an impressive 67 on day one, was delighted with his two rounds in Doha.

“I’m really pleased with these rounds. That’s nice to finish by a final birdie on the last. I’m looking forward to the next few days because I’m playing good golf,” he added. 

When asked about his form last week, Wattel said: “I played one good round in Abu Dhabi, the first round, and then I didn’t manage to play as good as the first round but I am going to try and play exactly the same way.”

Daly, who fired three birdies on way to his 67 yesterday, was counting his blessings after two rounds in Doha. 

The 46-year-old American is a two-time Major champion.

“I hit it pretty good. Thought I made a couple more putts, would have been great, but very pleased with the way I’m playing,” Daly said.

Without a title for the past 10 years, the colourful American said playing at DGC was a test of character and nerves.

“This isn’t an easy golf course. It’s in great shape but it’s a tough golf course,” Daly said. 

“The fairways are not the easiest to hit, and you know, you miss it a little too far right and left, no telling what it can happen.

“But like I said, I kept it close to the fairway a lot today and hit a lot of fairways, so my irons were really good today,” he added.

European number one and former Qatar Masters champion Henrik Stenson took 14 holes to record his first birdie as he posted a 71 to lie five under.  

The Swede’s playing partners Luke Donald of England and Jason Dufner of the US finished three under.

Donald was in danger of missing the cut until coming home in 32 for a 69, while US PGA Champion Dufner bogeyed two of the last four holes to return a 71.

The cut fell at one under par and defending champion Chris Wood of England scraped through on the mark thanks to a birdie on the 18th. THE PENINSULA

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