Titleist Brand Ambassador Rafa Cabrera-Bello had never played Austin Country Club prior to participating in last week's WGC-Dell Match Play. The course was obviously to his liking as he emerged from his four-player group without a loss and then advanced to the semifinals in the field of 64. Cabrera-Bello finished third after knocking off the No. 3 player in the world 3 & 2 in the consolation match. He's hoping lightning will strike twice as he is playing the Shell Houston Open and the Golf Club of Houston for the first time this week.
We caught up with the 31-year old Spaniard on the practice putting green at GC of Houston and he took some time from his preparations to answer a few questions.
"I am not very familiar with the course but I have been playing a lot of golf lately and I will be ready," he said, smiling. His comment was an understatement.
Cabrera-Bello started the year ranked No. 114 in the Official World Golf Rankings. In the six events in which he has played in 2016, he has made all six cuts, including ties for second at the Qatar Masters and Dubai Desert Classic, a third place finish at the WGC-Dell Match Play, a T11 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and a T14 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. His fast start has vaulted him all the way to No. 36 in the world entering this week's event. More importantly, his successful seven-match performance last week moved him inside the World Top 50, earning an invitation to his first Masters. He has never played Augusta National either. An omen?
"I had opportunities to play Augusta National with friends before, but I always said I wanted to earn my way there first," he said, "and now I have. I am really looking forward to it. Watching Jose Maria Olazabal win the Masters was really the reason I wanted to turn pro, so it is going to be be very special for me."
While we were chatting, Cabrera-Bello gave us a tour of his Titleist staff bag, and shared some thoughts on the equipment he depends upon.
Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1x:
RCB: I play the Pro V1x because it does everything I want and need it to do from tee-through-green. I mark my Pro V1x with my initials RCB over the Titleist script on both sides of the ball. I write it pretty large so it's easy to see and it won't be confused with anybody else.
Driver: Titleist 913D3 (8.5°) with Project X X7A3 S-flex shaft:
RCB: I've played the same 913D3 driver for over four years. I am pretty accurate off the tee and I just love the consistent performance it gives me.
Fairway Metal: Titleist 915F (15°) with Project X X10A2 S-flex shaft:
Irons: Titleist 714CB (2) and 716MB (3-PW) with Project X 7.0 shafts:
RCB: I've been a blade player all my life and I put the new 716 MB's in the bag right away when they came out last fall. I love the looks, the feel, and the way they perform through the turf.
Wedges: Vokey Design SM6 sand (54°) and lob (60°) wedges with Project X 7.0 shafts:
RCB: I put the new SM6 wedges in the bag as soon as they came out last fall as well. It was an easy transition and I can flight the ball the way I want much easier.
Putter: Scotty Cameron prototype:
RCB: I've been using this putter for a while now. The colors are those of the Canary Islands flag which is where I'm from. It's pretty colorful and works great. I love the feel.
Thanks, Rafa, from everyone at #TeamTitleist. Best of luck this week at Houston and enjoy your first Masters!
Cabrera-Bello has won twice on the PGA European Tour, entering the winner's circle at the 2009 Austrian Golf Open and the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Cabrera-Bello is currently ranked second in the European Tour's Race to Dubai.
Rafa is currently tied for 3rd in scoring on the PGA European Tour, with a 69.5 stroke average. A key to his his success this year has been his accuracy, as evidenced by the 78.5% rate at which he's been hitting greens in regulation (5th on the European Tour).
Check out the video below to see how Rafa marks his Pro V1x and how he lines it up on tee shots as well as on the greens.