"The crowds cheered when you hit a bad shot"
While the majority of the golfing coverage rarely shifts its gaze from the tussles of the 'Big Four' (or Tiger Woods' on-going injury saga), Spanish golfer, Rafa Cabrera-Bello has been quietly getting on with business. This year has seen him put in his best performance in a Major, finish fifth at the Olympics, and make his Ryder Cup debut. Esquire Middle East caught up with him at the newly renovated JA Jebel Ali Golf Course in Dubai:
ESQ: What's the new course like here at Jebal Ali since it re-opened?
I haven't played it yet! I only got in from the Dunhill Links tournament in Scotland two days ago, but I'm set to play later this afternoon. I had a drive around the course earlier and the new irrigation system that is in place looks really good, on top of that the new greens are made from Paspalum grass, which will be extremely suitable for this type of weather.
So you're a fan of the course?
It’s a great 9-hole course, which is very complete. It can be quite short and has some wide fairways where you can hit driver really hard and some where you have to be more accurate off the tee. The course also has some elevation, left-to-right and right-to-left tee shots, as well as some water hazards. Having all of these different features means the course encourages you to play many different types of shots, making it a good challenge. The practice facilities here are also great, from the range to the putting and chipping area.
You practice here?
Yes, when I am here [in Dubai]. I obviously don’t do all of my practice here, but when I’m here I use the facilities and play as much as I can.
Are we still in time to congratulate you on your Ryder Cup debut?
Sure! And thank you.
Did the experience meet your expectations or was there any surprises?
It certainly turned out how I imagined, but the experience as a whole definitely exceeded my expectations! The reason I say this is because everyone leading up to the event talked about the team spirit, how you feel part of a group and how you fight for your team knowing they have your back and it was exactly like that. With it being such a big stage, we have all seen big crowds before, for example at The Masters, but this was even larger and louder.
What was it like going back to a normal tournament after all that?
It is strange, because in golf people cheer for good shots, with this year’s Ryder Cup being in America, the crowds were very hostile and cheer when you hit a bad shot. That kind of thing doesn’t usually happen in golf. Sure, sometimes you can hear disappointment from the crowd in a tournament, but not cheers because you missed!
You were partnered with Sergio Garcia. What made your partnership work so well?
We have been friends since my early amateur days and I’ve always looked up to him. He's a fantastic player and one of the most talented in the world. It makes it easy to be paired with him because he can execute any shot imaginable. It also worked well because of our nature, with us both being Spanish, that fighting spirit comes naturally. Spanish golfers are known to be very passionate, with lots of charisma and will to win.
What do you think of the golf courses here in Dubai as a whole?
There is a little bit of everything here. You have some very good technical courses suited to professionals. If I had to name two they would be the Majilis and Earth at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Then there are a lot of amateur friendly courses, JA is definately one I recommend, as is the Faldo course. There is a very broad range of golf courses in Dubai and, honestly, I like playing in short sleeves and shorts!
You've already qualified for the DP World Tour Championship. What do you think of the Earth course?
I like it. It’s a bomber's course because its quite long and because it hosts the final event of the season, it has a big significance for us players on the European Tour. I felt I played well on the course last year, it suits my game nicely and the European Tour Performance institute is over there as well, which, when in Dubai is where I do a lot of my practice as well. All in all it’s a great facility.
To finish off, if you could win one major what would it be?
If I could win one major it would have to be The Open because I’m European and it’s the oldest one. It’s not just a major, it’s The Open!