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McIlroy hopes to join some select company with Australian Open repeat

Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Rory McIlroy is the defending champion of this week's Australian Open.

SYDNEY, Australia -- Rory McIlroy is looking to join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as the only non-Australian players to have won back-to-back Australian Open titles when the world No. 1 tees off on Thursday.

Having finished the DP World Tour Championship with a share of second place, McIlroy will arrive in Sydney on Monday for the event at The Australian Golf Club.

His sights will be on achieving a rare feat among non-Australians of winning the title for a second year in a row. Nicklaus won in 1975 and 1976, while Player managed the feat twice -- retaining the title for the first time in 1963 and then again in 1970.

"I noticed on the trophy when I was handed it last year I was the first non-Australian to win the Australian Open since Tim Clark in 2008 but to match something that Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have achieved would be amazing," McIlroy said Sunday.

It's not the only connection to come to the Northern Irishman's notice.

"Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Player are two players to have won the Grand Slam and their connection with the Australian Open is pretty timely for me."

McIlroy only needs an elusive victory in the Masters at Augusta to complete his Grand Slam, and it's clearly a subject that has been on his mind for a while.

"I have been thinking about Augusta next year since the 18th August this year when I won the PGA Championship for a second time," he said. "So it might be a good omen for me going to Augusta in April if I could again win the Australian Open."

McIlroy will warm up for his title defense by playing a practice round on Tuesday with 16-year-old amateur Ryan Ruffels.

Once the Australian Open is over, McIlroy said he will travel to New York to host two corporate evenings on behalf of his foundation.

He will then take a break from the game over Christmas and New Year prior to returning to the United Arab Emirates to work on his game before his first event of 2015, the 10th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starting on Jan. 15.

"I will have a little bit of downtime over Christmas and New Year, which will be nice and I'll start practicing again early in the New Year and get ready for Abu Dhabi," he said.


Series: Other Tour

Published: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 | 1:14 p.m.

SYDNEY, Australia -- Rory McIlroy is looking to join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as the only non-Australian players to have won back-to-back Australian Open titles when the world No. 1 tees off on Thursday.

Having finished the DP World Tour Championship with a share of second place, McIlroy will arrive in Sydney on Monday for the event at The Australian Golf Club.

His sights will be on achieving a rare feat among non-Australians of winning the title for a second year in a row. Nicklaus won in 1975 and 1976, while Player managed the feat twice -- retaining the title for the first time in 1963 and then again in 1970.

"I noticed on the trophy when I was handed it last year I was the first non-Australian to win the Australian Open since Tim Clark in 2008 but to match something that Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have achieved would be amazing," McIlroy said Sunday.

It's not the only connection to come to the Northern Irishman's notice.

"Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Player are two players to have won the Grand Slam and their connection with the Australian Open is pretty timely for me."

McIlroy only needs an elusive victory in the Masters at Augusta to complete his Grand Slam, and it's clearly a subject that has been on his mind for a while.

"I have been thinking about Augusta next year since the 18th August this year when I won the PGA Championship for a second time," he said. "So it might be a good omen for me going to Augusta in April if I could again win the Australian Open."

McIlroy will warm up for his title defense by playing a practice round on Tuesday with 16-year-old amateur Ryan Ruffels.

Once the Australian Open is over, McIlroy said he will travel to New York to host two corporate evenings on behalf of his foundation.

He will then take a break from the game over Christmas and New Year prior to returning to the United Arab Emirates to work on his game before his first event of 2015, the 10th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starting on Jan. 15.

"I will have a little bit of downtime over Christmas and New Year, which will be nice and I'll start practicing again early in the New Year and get ready for Abu Dhabi," he said.


Golf events schedule for November 27-30, 2014

Rory McIlroy
USA Today Images
Rory McIlroy is the defending championship at the Australian Open this week.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 | 12:37 p.m.

Charlie Sifford receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Charlie Sifford
Getty Images
Charlie Sifford receives his medal Monday from President Barack Obama.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Monday, November 24, 2014 | 5:57 p.m.

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Four tips for hitting it clean from a tight hardpan lie

Phil Mickelson
PGA of America
Phil Mickelson displays his talent for hitting off a tight lie.

Cooler temperatures aren't the only thing golfers face during the winter months. Grass goes dormant in most locales, which means there's less material between the ball and ground. That results in a lot of tight lies, and if it's been a dry winter, hardpan as well.

So how do you deal with tight lies, particularly on hardpan? Chris Czaja, PGA Teaching Professional at Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla., said it's actually a pretty easy shot to master, once you know the secret.

LESSON LEARNED: Three tips for the perfect bump-and-run

"When I played my college golf for East Carolina University, I spent a lot of time hitting golf shots off tight lies," Czaja said. "When the grass would go dormant in the winter months, it was a great drill to practice shots off tight lies. I discovered that I could control the ball flight better and really compress the shot. I never feared a tight lie again."

With a bare lie, Czaja said the contact between the club face and ball should be as clean as hitting off a tee.

"The only time this shot is difficult is when you have to get the ball high in the air on a very short distance shot, like over a trap from 10 yards away," Czaja said.

QUICK GOLF LESSON: Stop the shanks

Czaja said there are four tips to keep in mind when hitting from a tight lie.

  1. Move the golf ball back in your stance. This will set your hands in front of the ball.
  2. Swing down more on the ball. This will give the golf ball backspin.
  3. Keep good tempo.
  4. Take more loft. Go to a hybrid instead of a longer iron.

With practice, Czaja said you'll gain the confidence required to hit from a tight lie.

"Make sure the leading edge of the club gets under the ball," he said.

 

 

By Mark Aumann
PGA.com

Problem Area: Hybrids and Irons
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Monday, November 24, 2014 | 11:21 a.m.

Cooler temperatures aren't the only thing golfers face during the winter months. Grass goes dormant in most locales, which means there's less material between the ball and ground. That results in a lot of tight lies, and if it's been a dry winter, hardpan as well.

So how do you deal with tight lies, particularly on hardpan? Chris Czaja, PGA Teaching Professional at Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla., said it's actually a pretty easy shot to master, once you know the secret.

LESSON LEARNED: Three tips for the perfect bump-and-run

"When I played my college golf for East Carolina University, I spent a lot of time hitting golf shots off tight lies," Czaja said. "When the grass would go dormant in the winter months, it was a great drill to practice shots off tight lies. I discovered that I could control the ball flight better and really compress the shot. I never feared a tight lie again."

With a bare lie, Czaja said the contact between the club face and ball should be as clean as hitting off a tee.

"The only time this shot is difficult is when you have to get the ball high in the air on a very short distance shot, like over a trap from 10 yards away," Czaja said.

QUICK GOLF LESSON: Stop the shanks

Czaja said there are four tips to keep in mind when hitting from a tight lie.

  1. Move the golf ball back in your stance. This will set your hands in front of the ball.
  2. Swing down more on the ball. This will give the golf ball backspin.
  3. Keep good tempo.
  4. Take more loft. Go to a hybrid instead of a longer iron.

With practice, Czaja said you'll gain the confidence required to hit from a tight lie.

"Make sure the leading edge of the club gets under the ball," he said.

 

 


Try this ...

top notch

Tommy Armour III rallies for playoff win in Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Tommy Armour III made a 4-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole for a one-shot victory over Lee Janzen at the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational.

Armour III, who won the event for the third time in its 43-year history, had a final-round 67 for a 14-under 274. He began the final round trailing Janzen, the two-time U.S. Open champion, by two shots.

The co-leader after three rounds with Andrew Putnam, Janzen finished with a 69.

Armour III made a 17-foot putt on the 18th hole of regulation to match Janzen at 14 under. Janzen had just made a 30-foot birdie from the front fringe.

Kevin Sutherland, the 2000 winner of the tournament that features 83 pros from the four major tours as well as mini tour players and club pros, finished alone in third at 10 under after a 67.


Series: Other Tour

Published: Sunday, November 23, 2014 | 8:01 p.m.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Tommy Armour III made a 4-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole for a one-shot victory over Lee Janzen at the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational.

Armour III, who won the event for the third time in its 43-year history, had a final-round 67 for a 14-under 274. He began the final round trailing Janzen, the two-time U.S. Open champion, by two shots.

The co-leader after three rounds with Andrew Putnam, Janzen finished with a 69.

Armour III made a 17-foot putt on the 18th hole of regulation to match Janzen at 14 under. Janzen had just made a 30-foot birdie from the front fringe.

Kevin Sutherland, the 2000 winner of the tournament that features 83 pros from the four major tours as well as mini tour players and club pros, finished alone in third at 10 under after a 67.


Ko wins CME Group Tour Championship playoff, scores $1.5 million payoff

Lydia Ko
USA Today Images
Already assured of a $1 million payday Sunday, Lydia Ko added another $500,000 with her playoff victory.

NAPLES, Fla. -- New Zealand teenager Lydia Ko ended her rookie year on the LPGA Tour with the biggest payoff in women's golf.

Ko won the $1 million bonus from the inaugural "Race to CME Globe" on Sunday by getting into a three-way playoff. Then, the 17-year-old added an extra $500,000 when she defeated Carlota Ciganda of Spain on the fourth extra hole at Tiburon Golf Club to win the CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko made par all five times she played the 18th hole on Sunday, and the last one paid handsomely.

"It's been an awesome week, and a week that I'll never forget," Ko said. "When I saw that $1 million in the box, I was like, `Wow, I wonder who the winner of that will be?' It's amazing. I've never seen that much cash in one place before."

Only the tournament earnings counted toward the money list. The $500,000 from her third victory of the year made Ko the first LPGA Tour rookie to surpass $2 million in one season.

Ciganda and Julieta Granada of Paraguay certainly helped Ko's cause.

Granada, who closed with a 1-under 71, was the first to exit the playoff when she three-putted from just off the 18th green. Her 5-foot par putt spun in and out of the cup.

Ciganda, who shot a 70, had two good chances to win. She missed a 3-foot birdie on the 17th hole in regulation that would have given her the lead. She also missed a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 18 in the third playoff hole for the victory.

On the fourth time at No. 18 in the playoff, Ciganda pulled her approach from the fairway and watched it bounce down a slope and into the hazard.

"What the ..." Ciganda said, without finishing the sentence as her shot sailed toward trouble.

She took a penalty drop and chipped to 3 feet. Ko needed only two putts for the win, and her first putt stopped an inch from going in. No matter. The kid was a winner again, her fifth LPGA Tour title before her 18th birthday. She was an amateur when she won her first two LPGA titles.

Ko wasn't the only big winner in the LPGA Tour finale.

Stacy Lewis never had a chance to win the tournament or the $1 million bonus, though she walked away with her own slice of history. Lewis became the first American in 21 years to sweep the three most significant awards on the LPGA Tour -- player of the year, the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average and the money title.

"The $1 million would have been nice," Lewis said after a 71 to tie for ninth place. "But those three, that's what I came here for."

Ko had a 68-68 weekend, and she established herself quickly on another blustery day with three birdies in eight holes to take the lead. She hit her approach to 3 feet on the 13th and looked as though she might pull away.

Ciganda made back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes to join Ko at 10-under par, and Granada chipped in on the 15th for birdie to make it a threesome. They finished at 10-under 278 to force the third straight playoff on the LPGA Tour.

The LPGA decided to use one hole for the playoff -- the 18th hole, which yielded only four birdies all week. True to form, victory went to the player who didn't make a mistake. Then again, Ko didn't do much wrong in a rookie season like no other.

"She's a great player," Lewis said. "She got that innocence about her that she doesn't even realize what's going on. She probably has no idea how the scenarios and points work out. Maybe it's to her advantage."

Going into the LPGA Tour finale, the top three in the Race to CME Globe only had to win the tournament to capture the $1 million bonus. Lewis wound up six shots out of the playoff. Inbee Park, who was at No. 2 in the standings, never got on track and tied for 24th at even-par 288.

Ko wrapped up the race by getting into the playoff, win or lose, which she said helped to alleviate the pressure.

Morgan Pressel had a 72 and finished alone in fourth, while Michelle Wie (70) tied for fifth.

By
Doug Ferguson

Series: LPGA Tour

Published: Sunday, November 23, 2014 | 5:31 p.m.

NAPLES, Fla. -- New Zealand teenager Lydia Ko ended her rookie year on the LPGA Tour with the biggest payoff in women's golf.

Ko won the $1 million bonus from the inaugural "Race to CME Globe" on Sunday by getting into a three-way playoff. Then, the 17-year-old added an extra $500,000 when she defeated Carlota Ciganda of Spain on the fourth extra hole at Tiburon Golf Club to win the CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko made par all five times she played the 18th hole on Sunday, and the last one paid handsomely.

"It's been an awesome week, and a week that I'll never forget," Ko said. "When I saw that $1 million in the box, I was like, `Wow, I wonder who the winner of that will be?' It's amazing. I've never seen that much cash in one place before."

Only the tournament earnings counted toward the money list. The $500,000 from her third victory of the year made Ko the first LPGA Tour rookie to surpass $2 million in one season.

Ciganda and Julieta Granada of Paraguay certainly helped Ko's cause.

Granada, who closed with a 1-under 71, was the first to exit the playoff when she three-putted from just off the 18th green. Her 5-foot par putt spun in and out of the cup.

Ciganda, who shot a 70, had two good chances to win. She missed a 3-foot birdie on the 17th hole in regulation that would have given her the lead. She also missed a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 18 in the third playoff hole for the victory.

On the fourth time at No. 18 in the playoff, Ciganda pulled her approach from the fairway and watched it bounce down a slope and into the hazard.

"What the ..." Ciganda said, without finishing the sentence as her shot sailed toward trouble.

She took a penalty drop and chipped to 3 feet. Ko needed only two putts for the win, and her first putt stopped an inch from going in. No matter. The kid was a winner again, her fifth LPGA Tour title before her 18th birthday. She was an amateur when she won her first two LPGA titles.

Ko wasn't the only big winner in the LPGA Tour finale.

Stacy Lewis never had a chance to win the tournament or the $1 million bonus, though she walked away with her own slice of history. Lewis became the first American in 21 years to sweep the three most significant awards on the LPGA Tour -- player of the year, the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average and the money title.

"The $1 million would have been nice," Lewis said after a 71 to tie for ninth place. "But those three, that's what I came here for."

Ko had a 68-68 weekend, and she established herself quickly on another blustery day with three birdies in eight holes to take the lead. She hit her approach to 3 feet on the 13th and looked as though she might pull away.

Ciganda made back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes to join Ko at 10-under par, and Granada chipped in on the 15th for birdie to make it a threesome. They finished at 10-under 278 to force the third straight playoff on the LPGA Tour.

The LPGA decided to use one hole for the playoff -- the 18th hole, which yielded only four birdies all week. True to form, victory went to the player who didn't make a mistake. Then again, Ko didn't do much wrong in a rookie season like no other.

"She's a great player," Lewis said. "She got that innocence about her that she doesn't even realize what's going on. She probably has no idea how the scenarios and points work out. Maybe it's to her advantage."

Going into the LPGA Tour finale, the top three in the Race to CME Globe only had to win the tournament to capture the $1 million bonus. Lewis wound up six shots out of the playoff. Inbee Park, who was at No. 2 in the standings, never got on track and tied for 24th at even-par 288.

Ko wrapped up the race by getting into the playoff, win or lose, which she said helped to alleviate the pressure.

Morgan Pressel had a 72 and finished alone in fourth, while Michelle Wie (70) tied for fifth.


Stacy Lewis misses out on $1 million but sweeps three biggest LPGA awards

NAPLES, Fla. -- Stacy Lewis became the first American in 21 years to sweep the three biggest awards on the LPGA Tour, which she considered more valuable than a $1 million bonus.

Lewis closed with a 1-under 71 in the CME Group Tour Championship on Sunday, tied for ninth in the LPGA Tour finale. But it was enough for her to win LPGA Tour player of the year for the second time in three seasons. She also won the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average and the money title.

The last American to sweep the awards was Betsy King in 1993.

"The $1 million would have been nice," said Lewis, who was six shots out of a playoff. "But those three, that's what I came here for. ... It's been hard to play the last four days, and it's nice to be done. I didn't have my best stuff. I'm pretty surprised to finish where I did."

Two years ago, the 29-year-old Lewis became the first American since Beth Daniel to win the points-based player of the year. She added the Vare Trophy a year ago. And on Sunday, she collected all three at the same time.

Inbee Park, the No. 1 in the world, was the only player who could have kept Lewis from the awards. She trailed in all of them, but struggled all week at Tiburon Golf Club and finished in a tie for 24th, four shots worse than Lewis.

Lewis finished atop the money list with $2,539,039, more than $300,000 over Park. Her scoring average was 69.532, while Park was second at 69.682. Michelle Wie was third in the Vare Trophy standings (69.818), followed by So Yeon Ryu at 69.978.

It was the first time in LPGA history that four women had a sub-70 scoring average.

Lewis felt as much stress this week as at any major, mainly because Park was on a roll and Lewis was struggling. She received one good omen Saturday night when her family ordered Chinese food and her father tossed her a fortune cookie.

Lewis kept it in her pocket during the final day of the tournament and read it aloud to the media when she was done: "Good news of long-awaited event will arrive soon."

"The last couple of weeks have been tough," Lewis said. "The game hasn't been exactly where I wanted it to be. I figured (Park would) keep it rolling this week, and I knew I needed to find something. It was probably four of the hardest rounds of golf I've ever played."

Lewis won three times this year, though she failed to do so at a major. Still, she wouldn't trade what she ended up with.

"Before this week, it was good. Now it's a little bit better," Lewis said when asked to measure her year. "I'd like to have taken a major championship. But winning these three awards makes it almost great."

By
Doug Ferguson

Series: LPGA Tour

Published: Sunday, November 23, 2014 | 5:21 p.m.

NAPLES, Fla. -- Stacy Lewis became the first American in 21 years to sweep the three biggest awards on the LPGA Tour, which she considered more valuable than a $1 million bonus.

Lewis closed with a 1-under 71 in the CME Group Tour Championship on Sunday, tied for ninth in the LPGA Tour finale. But it was enough for her to win LPGA Tour player of the year for the second time in three seasons. She also won the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average and the money title.

The last American to sweep the awards was Betsy King in 1993.

"The $1 million would have been nice," said Lewis, who was six shots out of a playoff. "But those three, that's what I came here for. ... It's been hard to play the last four days, and it's nice to be done. I didn't have my best stuff. I'm pretty surprised to finish where I did."

Two years ago, the 29-year-old Lewis became the first American since Beth Daniel to win the points-based player of the year. She added the Vare Trophy a year ago. And on Sunday, she collected all three at the same time.

Inbee Park, the No. 1 in the world, was the only player who could have kept Lewis from the awards. She trailed in all of them, but struggled all week at Tiburon Golf Club and finished in a tie for 24th, four shots worse than Lewis.

Lewis finished atop the money list with $2,539,039, more than $300,000 over Park. Her scoring average was 69.532, while Park was second at 69.682. Michelle Wie was third in the Vare Trophy standings (69.818), followed by So Yeon Ryu at 69.978.

It was the first time in LPGA history that four women had a sub-70 scoring average.

Lewis felt as much stress this week as at any major, mainly because Park was on a roll and Lewis was struggling. She received one good omen Saturday night when her family ordered Chinese food and her father tossed her a fortune cookie.

Lewis kept it in her pocket during the final day of the tournament and read it aloud to the media when she was done: "Good news of long-awaited event will arrive soon."

"The last couple of weeks have been tough," Lewis said. "The game hasn't been exactly where I wanted it to be. I figured (Park would) keep it rolling this week, and I knew I needed to find something. It was probably four of the hardest rounds of golf I've ever played."

Lewis won three times this year, though she failed to do so at a major. Still, she wouldn't trade what she ended up with.

"Before this week, it was good. Now it's a little bit better," Lewis said when asked to measure her year. "I'd like to have taken a major championship. But winning these three awards makes it almost great."


Henrik Stenson defends DP World Tour Championship with final-round 70

Henrik Stenson
Getty Images
Henrik Stenson ponders a putt during Sunday's final round of the DP World Tour Championship.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Henrik Stenson birdied the last two holes Sunday to successfully defend his DP World Tour Championship title at the European Tour's season-ending event.

Stenson shot a final round 2-under 70 to win by two strokes with an overall 16-under 272 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

RORY'S RICOCHET: Watch McIlroy's tee shot take a lucky bounce

Three of Stenson's teammates on Europe's victorious Ryder Cup team -- top-ranked Rory McIlroy (68), Victor Dubuisson (68) and Justin Rose (69) -- shared second on 14-under 274.

It was the first time Stenson has successfully defended a title and guaranteed that the 38-year-old Swede finishes second to McIlroy in the European Tour Race to Dubai.

"It was such a great place for me to win here last year, so to come back and successfully defend is very pleasing," Stenson said. "I'll be back and try to make it three wins in a row next year."

Rose picked off three birdies in succession from the 14th while Dubuisson birdied the last.

Stenson went to 15 under when he birdied the 17th. While he was in the rough at the last, he found the fairway with his second shot before landing his third pin-high right and sealed the fate of his three Gleneagles colleagues by holing the 15-foot birdie putt.

SUNDAY'S TOP PHOTOS: Our favorites from around the world

McIlroy had briefly threatened with birdies on the 14th and 15th.

"I never expected 14-under par would have the remotest chance of winning this golf tournament," said McIlroy. "It just seemed like no one really took the tournament by the scruff of the neck and went with it. But then I didn't play well enough to win this week."

Rafa Cabrera-Bello (75) was leading with three holes to play but the Spaniard tumbled down the board with back-to-back double bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 to finish tied for ninth with an overall 277.

Cabrera-Bello was looking for a second victory in Dubai after capturing the 2012 Dubai Desert Classic.

By
Bernie McGuire

Series: European Tour

Published: Sunday, November 23, 2014 | 8:00 a.m.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Henrik Stenson birdied the last two holes Sunday to successfully defend his DP World Tour Championship title at the European Tour's season-ending event.

Stenson shot a final round 2-under 70 to win by two strokes with an overall 16-under 272 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

RORY'S RICOCHET: Watch McIlroy's tee shot take a lucky bounce

Three of Stenson's teammates on Europe's victorious Ryder Cup team -- top-ranked Rory McIlroy (68), Victor Dubuisson (68) and Justin Rose (69) -- shared second on 14-under 274.

It was the first time Stenson has successfully defended a title and guaranteed that the 38-year-old Swede finishes second to McIlroy in the European Tour Race to Dubai.

"It was such a great place for me to win here last year, so to come back and successfully defend is very pleasing," Stenson said. "I'll be back and try to make it three wins in a row next year."

Rose picked off three birdies in succession from the 14th while Dubuisson birdied the last.

Stenson went to 15 under when he birdied the 17th. While he was in the rough at the last, he found the fairway with his second shot before landing his third pin-high right and sealed the fate of his three Gleneagles colleagues by holing the 15-foot birdie putt.

SUNDAY'S TOP PHOTOS: Our favorites from around the world

McIlroy had briefly threatened with birdies on the 14th and 15th.

"I never expected 14-under par would have the remotest chance of winning this golf tournament," said McIlroy. "It just seemed like no one really took the tournament by the scruff of the neck and went with it. But then I didn't play well enough to win this week."

Rafa Cabrera-Bello (75) was leading with three holes to play but the Spaniard tumbled down the board with back-to-back double bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 to finish tied for ninth with an overall 277.

Cabrera-Bello was looking for a second victory in Dubai after capturing the 2012 Dubai Desert Classic.


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