Spaniard Rafael “Rafa” Cabrer- Bello, 34, finished Day 1 of the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational atop the leaderboard at 7-unde-par. He tees off at 11:58 p.m. EST (Golf Channel, NBC) Friday holding a 2-stroke deficit to England’s Tommy Eastwood. Cabrera-Bello, the No. 44 player in the FedEx Cup standings, is looking for his first PGA Tour win after a few close calls.
Cabrera-Bello sprinted out of the gates with birdies on 4 of his first 6 holes. His lone bogey came at the 10th, but he responded well with 4 more birdies down the back-9 to hold a lead at the end of Thursday at Bay Hill Golf Course in Orlando.
Here’s what you need to know about the Las Palmas native.
1. He Played His First Round at Bay Hill Alongside Arnold Palmer’s Grandson
Cabrera-Bello is playing at Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the first time in his career. He also never crossed paths with the legendary Palmer, who passed away in 2016 at age 87. He has crossed paths with Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders several times on the Tour, including Thursday as the 2 were paired together.
“Playing with Sam is always a pleasure, not because he’s the grandson of Arnie but because of how nice of a guy he is,” said Cabrera-Bello to reporters afterward. “Obviously, playing at Bay Hill with him, I know how special this event is for all of us. I can only imagine how special it is for him.”
Cabrera-Bello recorded a 65 on the day, including a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, while Saunders finished with a 73 (1-over-par). The two will play alongside each other again on Friday.
While it was the Spaniard’s first time playing at Bay Hill, he thinks his play will “probably get better” over the next few rounds.
I really didn’t know what to expect. I know how nice and tough the course is, and I think it’s a course with many, many daunting shots. So I feel the more you play it, probably the better. So I wasn’t really having much high expectations as opposed to just getting out there and playing my golf.
With Fleetwood jumping ahead early on Friday, as well as Americans in Keegan Bradley and Luke List nipping at his heels, Cabrera-Bello will need to continue his push from his debut day in Orlando.
2. He Broke Out with a T-4th Place Finish at the 2017 Open Championship
Cabera-Bello earned a spot in The Open Championship in 2017 due to his dramatic victory at that year’s Scottish Open. He edged out British golfer Callum Shinkwin on the first playoff hole. The Spaniard’s 64 on the final day forced a tie at 13-under, and then birdied to claim the title.
The Open Championship was then played at Royal Birkdale, a course in northwest England in the city of Southport. Cabrera-Bello said that the event sometimes known as the British Open carries significant meaning to him.
“The Open is the most special event in the world,” Cabrera-Bello said to NBC at the time. “I think for all of us Europeans, it’s the one that we would all really like to win. Also playing a linked course, where golf was invented, how golf was discovered…it’s really, really special.”
He tied with Rory McIlroy for fourth place after finishing 5-under par. Jordan Speith took home the Claret Jug with a 12-under par. Cabrera-Bello earned $480 thousand of prize money.
3. He Has 5 International Tournament Titles, but Still Seeks His First on the PGA Tour
Cabrera-Bello took home his first international title in 2006 at 21-years old at the MAN No Open. Since then, he has captured 4 other titles. Including the 2017 Scottish Open, he won the 2008 Credit Suisse Open, 2009 Austrian Open and 2012 Desert Dubai Classic.
The win in Austria was his first on the European Tour, where he tied a tour record with an 11-under 60.
The 13th player to shoot 60 on tour – Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke has done it twice – Cabrera-Bello is also only the third to achieve the feat on the final day and win.
“It’s just amazing. I played the best golf of my life and I can’t believe it,” said Cabrera-Bello to The Guardian in Sep. 2009. “I was so far back I wasn’t thinking about winning. I just tried to play a shot at a time and today it worked out really, really good.”
His first major was the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon. He scuffled to a 4-over par to finish 39th.
4. His Sister Emma is Also a Professional Golfer
His younger sister Emma is a professional golfer on the Ladies’ European Tour. She ranks just No. 1044 in the world, and has earned $165 thousand over her 11-year career. Her bio page points out several career highlights.
In 2009, posted four top 10 finishes including a career-best tie for 2nd place at the Open de Espana Femenino at Panoramica G&CC. Tied for 3rd at the Madrid Ladies Masters. Other top ten finishes were a tie for 6th at the HypoVereinsbank Ladies German Open and a tie for 9th at the Tenerife Ladies Open.
5. Rafael Cabrera-Bello is Married to Sofia Lundstedt
Cabrera-Bello tied the know with PGA Golf employee Sofia Lundstedt in Dec. 2017. Lundstedt Cabrera-Bello is of Swedish descent.
According to her LinkedIn, she has worked in Client Relations and Business Development for the PGA European Tour since 2014.
She previously worked as a marketing coordinator for Louis Vitton and has also worked for Dubai Golf and Ahlsell in Sweden.
The golfer announced their engagement after the Ryder Cup with an Instagram post which said: “Exactly 4 weeks ago this gorgeous @slundstedt said “YES” to the easiest question I’ve ever asked.”
She is often seen supporting her husband at golf tournaments.