Prior course experience is nice, but, as Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello proved on Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it can also be a bit overrated. Playing in his first competitive round at Bay Hill, Cabrera Bello went out and fired a seven-under 65, good enough for a two-shot solo lead at the end of the opening round.
Beginning his round on the back nine, the 34-year-old Spaniard birdied four of his first six holes, none of which came from outside of six feet. On the back nine he had to work a little bit harder on the greens, having made two of his four birdies from 30 feet at the fourth and fifth holes.
“I’ve been playing good this year,” said Cabrera Bello, who has made every cut on the PGA Tour this season, finishing inside the top 25 all but once in six tries. “Hitting the ball good and not quite getting as high finishes as I wanted but I felt like my game is good and I got off to a nice early hot start, which helped a lot, I hung in there, I kept playing solid golf most of the time, didn’t really give myself very much chances of trouble and the little ones that I had I managed to save most of them. A couple lucky breaks, a couple good putts and when I look at the leaderboard I’m like, oh, 7-under looks nice.”
His 65 puts him alone at the top for now, two clear of Keegan Bradley, whose five-under 67 was bogey-free.
“I played great all day,” said Bradley. “My first four or five holes I didn’t hit the ball the way I wanted it and I made some great scrambling pars. And then right after that everything kind of settled in, I was hitting a lot of fairways and greens and rolled a few putts and I love this tournament, I love this course, so this is a great start.”
Five players are tied for third at four under, including Phil Mickelson, who somehow managed to card a 68 despite anthat could have been much worse. Aside from that, Lefty was almost squeaky clean, making seven birdies and one bogey.
Up-to-the-minute leader board and other scoring information for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Florida, Mar. 7-10, 2019