Rafael Cabrera-Bello earned his second career European Tour victory.
Andrew Redington / Getty Images
Sunday, February 12, 2012

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Rafael Cabrera-Bello held off a strong field Sunday to capture the Dubai Desert Classic, shooting a 4-under 68 to beat Lee Westwood and Stephen Gallacher by a stroke for his second European Tour victory.

Westwood and Gallacher could have forced a playoff in the wind, but both players missed birdie putts on the 18th. That brought a groan from the packed gallery, but a broad smile from the No. 119-ranked Spaniard, who got on the phone to share news of his victory with his parents and girlfriend in the Canary Islands.

The win moves Cabrera-Bello - whose only other victory came at the Austrian Open in 2009 - into the top 60 and onto the elite list of golfers who will play in the Match Play Championship in Arizona that begins Feb. 23.

``It's been a really, really special week for me,'' Cabrera-Bello said as he accepted the trophy. ``I played great the entire week. With so many big names up there, I really felt proud of myself. I wanted to fight. I stayed calm and I did everything I read you should do in these situation. It was really amazing.''

Marcel Siem, who started the final round one shot back, finished three behind at 15-under 273. George Coetzee (70) of South Africa, Scott Jamieson (71) of Scotland, Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark and U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy (71) of Northern Ireland were a further shot back.

Fourth-ranked Martin Kaymer of Germany, two shots off the lead after the third round, struggled to a 1-over 74 and finished at 277. Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, also in contention Saturday, finished with a 1-under 71 for 275.

Cabrera-Bello is the latest low-profile player to win on the European Tour this year, following the lead of England's Robert Rock, who beat Tiger Woods to win the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship last month.

``Just the fact I was able to be successful today proves to me that I'm working on the right line,'' Cabrera-Bello said. ``It gives me a lot of confidence that I have proven to myself that I can perform at least one week as good as them. It's a huge morale booster.''

When the round started, it seemed everything was set for a Westwood win. He started with a one-shot lead over Cabrera-Bello and had 21 European Tour victories under his belt compared to three for the three players in second. He spoke of ``knowing how to play with a lead'' and felt his putting had steadily improved - noting that he needed only 27 putts Saturday.

But after making a 35-foot eagle putt from just off the green on the second to go up by two, Westwood's putting woes re-emerged. He bogeyed the fifth to fall into a tie with Cabrera-Bello and then missed birdie chances on the Nos. 9 and 10.

Instead, it was the Spaniard who showed just the right touch down the stretch. He made a birdie on No. 11 for a share of the lead and followed that with a birdie on No. 12th for the outright lead.

He then made his best shot of the day on No. 16, after his drive landed on a sandy hillside behind a grove of palm trees. His caddy advised him to play it safe and avoid the trees. But he went for the green, clearing the trees and landing his 150-yard shot just left of the green.

``I just didn't go for it to see what happened,'' said Cabrera-Bello, who ran up the hill to follow the shot. ``I really believed I could do it. And then when I hit the ball, I said please don't hit anything else. I don't want to hear any other noise.''

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