Shubhankar Sharma finishes T3 as Rafa Cabrera Bello wins Open de Espana

Rafa Cabrera Bello produced a steely up and down from the sand on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Adri Arnaus, winning it on the first playoff hole

Shubhankar Sharma - Getty Images - Open de Espana

10 October 2021: A rousing 66 constructed with some nerveless brilliance over the final nine holes helped Shubhankar Sharma secure his best result on the European Tour since his victory in the Maybank Championship in 2018. Shubhankar also jumped 25 spots in the Race to Dubai, reaching 55th with two more events left before the top-50 assemble in the desert for a final showdown. He finished T3 with Julien Guerrier and Grant Forrest. After a thrilling final stretch that saw Rafa Cabrera Bello and Adri Arnaus battle for victory, it took a playoff to determine the winner. Rafa made a clutch putt to clinch the title and end a four year drought by winning the Open de Espana.

Rafa Cabrera Bello - Getty Images - European Tour
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

The experienced Spaniard started the day with a two-stroke cushion over his compatriot Arnaus, but as he stood over his second tee shot, it had melted into the ground. Meanwhile, Arnaus played a steady hand to gain a two shot advantage over Rafa.

Rafa recovered with a hattrick of birdies to regain a share of the lead at 19-under. But there were some more spills and thrills on offer, as Rafa sprayed his tee shot wide on the final hole. As he worked his way to the green, he wound up in the greenside bunker. Playing with steely determination, he made a brilliant up and down par save to force the playoff.

After both golfers made an errant tee shot, pulling left. But once again, Rafa depended on his iron to rescue himself to eleven feet from the cup. He made a fine birdie from  there to secure his four European Tour title.

Even though Arnaus played well for a final round 67 against a battling 69 by his senior compatriot, the playoff left him ruminating over a fourth runner-up finish in his 72nd event on the Tour in Europe.

Shubhankar Sharma made birdies on the second and fourth holes, but that was undone by a five on the par-3 third hole.

A bogey at the par-4 sixth hole dropped him over par, before Shubhankar Sharma produced a gritty finish to work his way back from T8. Back to back birdies at the seventh and eighth ensured that he made the turn at one-under for the day.

Adri Arnaus - Getty Images - European Tour
Adri Arnaus – Getty Images – European Tour

He put his card on turbo from there, with two more birdies, making it four in six starting at the 7th. Shubhankar Sharma finished his round with a pair of birdies on the 17th the and 18th to secure a share of third place with two others.

Grant Forrest also had an impressive finish, taking just 28 strokes to finish at 17-under with Guerrier and Shubhankar.

Cabrera Bello joined an elite club of countrymen with his victory. Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Ángel Jiménez have adorned the trophy with their names on it too. Interestingly, Cabrera Bello has a full set of the Open de Espana titles – adding the professional title to his earlier successes at each age level from under-seven through under-18, as well as an amateur.

“It was definitely one trophy that was on my bucket list,” he said. “To join my name to all those champions – Alvaro (Quiros) as well that I can think of – it’s very, very special.

“I’m very, very happy. I knew it was going to be a really hard battle today and I don’t think I need to say that I didn’t get off to the ideal start.

“I’ve been believing in myself, I’ve had amazing support all this week rooting for me ever since the first minute and I was just hanging in there, I knew I’d have an opportunity and I’m glad that luck swung my way.

“I’ve loved this city since I came here for the first time but the last couple of years I’ve felt a really, really special connection with the crowd and the support has helped me a lot.

“I came here in probably the worst shape I have been in in the last decade, close to say, and to walk out here with a win, it’s very special.”