An exquisite lob wedge which found the bottom of the cup from 99 yards for an eagle two saw Rafa Cabrera Bello put the seal on a fine first round performance at the UBS Hong Kong Open with an almost flawless six-under-par 64.
The Spanish star produced the perfect end to his opening round at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling to establish a one-stroke lead over Frenchman Sébastien Gros. The European Tour is ending the calendar year at the Hong Kong Golf Club and Cabrera Bello has been one of the stand-out performers of 2016, not missing a single cut and finishing eighth on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex. The 32-year-old, who enjoyed an outstanding Ryder Cup debut as an undefeated rookie in Darren Clarke’s European Team, said:
“That was a very nice way to finish. I had perfect distance, hit really good shot and was surprised to see it go in. I have never really finished a round like that, so it felt nice. I played really smart today, made very little mistakes. I didn’t give myself in trouble off the tee. I was in control of the round all day and putted nicely, too, so it was nice work out there. This course is all about position, position, position, and rolling one or two putts and I did that very well today.”
Gros produced a solid opening on his debut at the Hong Kong Golf Club, carding five birdies on a stress free first round 66 to move into second spot, one stroke ahead of a ten-strong group of players which includes Tommy Fleetwood, Jordan Smith – the 2016 Challenge Tour Number One – and Peter Uihlein, who is making a comeback from ruptured knee ligaments and a broken wrist.
Olympic Gold medallist Justin Rose overcame his back injury to open the defence of his UBS Hong Kong Open title with a level-par 70, while Masters Champion Danny Willett opened with a two-under-par 68. Ryder Cup superstars Ian Poulter and Patrick Reed played together to card respective rounds of two-under and level-par respectively to remain very much in contention with three rounds to go.
Four-time champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and 2014 winner Scott Hend both produced solid displays with rounds of 69 to keep their hopes alive. James Stewart recorded the best round amongst the local competitors with a two-over 72.
As part of the UBS Hong Kong Open community outreach programme, over 100 students from three local schools were hosted to the event today by the Hong Kong Golf Association, giving the children an opportunity to learn about golf and its core values.