Miami: Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello narrowly missed a hole-in-one on his way to taking a two-shot lead in the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida on Thursday.
Cabrera Bello, who is chasing his first win on the US PGA Tour, carded a seven-under-par 65 at the Bay Hill course in Orlando after draining eight birdies and one bogey.
The 34-year-old from Las Palmas, who teed off on the 10th, almost capped a superb performance with an ace at the par-three second, drilling his tee-shot to within a foot of the pin.
The near-miss highlighted the Spaniard’s red hot iron play throughout the round, which helped set up an opening birdie on the par-four 10th when he nailed his second shot to within four feet.
Further birdies followed on the 12th and 13th to take him to three under before rolling in a six-foot birdie putt on the 15th to reach four under at the turn.
Although his momentum stalled with a bogey on his 10th hole, Cabrera Bello’s birdie at the second was followed by three more birdies down the stretch to leave him in sole possession of the leaderboard.
“There’s a lot of challenging shots,” Cabrera Bello said. “Pretty much on every hole it’s inviting you to take a risk and it really gets you focused on what you want to do,” added Cabrera Bello, who was playing alongside Arnold Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders on Thursday.
“I’m really happy to be playing here for the first time. To win an event that has the name of one of the greatest players on earth would be really special, but it’s only Thursday.”