10 October 2021: Rafa Cabrera Bello was back to his brilliant best as he carded a bogey free 64 to take a two shot lead into the final round at the 2021 Acciona Open de España presented by Madrid. Shubhankar Sharma posted 70, moving to 12-under in a tie for fifth with Wil Besseling, Alexander Levy and Richard Bland.
The Indian made two birdies in his one-under third round score. He shot 67-64-70 this week as he continues a fine run that started at the Cazoo Open in July. He has two top tens and a T12 since then, besides a handful of top-30 finishes too.
The home favourite finished second at the last staging of this event in 2019 but revealed he had felt “lost” at times in the following two years as he slipped outside the top 200 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
But he struck a positive tone on his arrival at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid and has certainly had plenty to smile about over the first three days, moving to 17 under and putting himself in pole position to claim a fourth European Tour title at his home open.
Fellow Spaniard Adri Arnaus and Frenchman Julien Guerrier were his nearest challengers after rounds 67 and 66 respectively, a shot clear of England’s Jack Senior.
Overnight leader Wil Besseling, England’s Richard Bland, Frenchman Alexander Levy and India’s Shubhankar Sharma were then five shots off the lead.
Cabrera Bello has a Rolex Series victory and a Ryder Cup appearance on his CV but, having won this event at every age level from under-seven to under-18 as an amateur, a victory in the professional tournament would rank very highly in his list of career highlights.
“It would be amazing,” he said. “I’ve won every Spanish amateur title there is and I’m missing this one which would be the pinnacle of Spanish golf.
“I’m going to have a very good chance at it tomorrow but I’m sure there’ll be more chances in the future too so I’ll just go out there, have fun, feed off the crowd and try to put on a show for them again.
“Today was one of my favourite days ever out there, in front of my countrymen, playing on a course that I love and with beautiful conditions, I felt really good.
“I felt their support – I was getting goosebumps almost every hole hearing them yelling my name, it was very special and I’m very proud that I could put on a show for them.
“I played really good, I drove it well, I hit really good iron shots and I did hole some very nice important putts. I guess that’s what happens when you’re playing good.”
I felt their support – I was getting goosebumps almost every hole hearing them yelling my name, it was very special and I’m very proud that I could put on a show for them
Dutchman Besseling quickly extended his overnight lead to three shots, holing a 20 footer on the third and leaving himself 11 feet at the par five fourth as he got up and down.
A three putt on the sixth stalled his momentum and he soon had company at the top of the leaderboard as Cabrera Bello turned in 32.
The 2016 Ryder Cup star made a two putt birdie on the fourth, holed from 15 and 21 feet respectively on the sixth and eighth and then put a beautiful tee shot to six feet on the ninth.
Playing partner Guerrier then made it a three way tie thanks to a tee shot to six feet at the third, a long putt at the fifth, a two putt birdie at the seventh and a remarkable shot to two feet from a fairway bunker at the tenth.
Besseling edged ahead with a tee shot to nine feet at the ninth but Arnaus also made his birdie from similar range to kick-off a hat-trick of gains that sent him to the summit.
He had already holed a 25 footer at the third and he put an approach to three feet at the tenth before holing a 20 foot putt from off the green at the next.
Cabrera Bello would not be left behind, however, and he put an approach to tap-in range at the 13th before getting up and down from the sand at the par five next to take the solo lead.
Guerrier also made a birdie from the sand on the 14th and holed from 18 feet on the 15th but Cabrera Bello followed him in from 12 feet and, when the Frenchman bogeyed the next after a ragged tee shot, the lead was two shots.
Arnaus had bogeyed the 12th but was another to get up and down from the sand on the 14th to get the shot back and sit alongside Guerrier.
Senior got to double figures with a birdie on the ninth as he turned in 34 and then put a tee shot to 11 feet at the 11th, holed a 30 footer at the 13th and put his second to 13 feet at the next for an eagle in a 65.
Besseling came home in 38 as he signed for a 72, Bland matched Cabrera Bello with a 64, Levy signed for a 65 and Sharma carded a 70.
Home favourite and World Number One Jon Rahm was at 11 under after a 72 alongside Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, Scottish trio David Drysdale, Grant Forrest and Marc Warren, and English pair Matthew Jordan and Ross McGowan.