RAFA Cabrera-Bello and Adri Arnaus lead a Spanish quartet at the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the Open de España, delighting the home crowds at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
The pair carded rounds of 65 and 66 respectively, sharing the lead on 11-under par, with Cabrera-Bello going bogey-free for the second consecutive day.
Cabrera-Bello, who came close to winning the Spanish Open as an amateur when it was held in his native Canary Islands back in 2002, said: “You don’t get to go bogey free very often, and two days in a row.
“I’m not sure how many times I’ve done that. I’m very pleased with how I’m playing, I’m feeling confident out there and in control of my game. Lots of good shots and when I get into trouble, I’ve been saving par, it’s great.
“Yesterday was a dream day, and today we had it again – I think we’re minus-31 for the three of us, which is remarkable.
“We’re feeding off each other and off the crowd. Bouncing off each other, it’s amazing,” added Cabrera-Bello, who is coached by David Leadbetter, and made his Ryder Cup debut in Europe’s defeat by the USA at Hazeltine, in 2016.
The Canary Islander is hunting his first victory since the 2017 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, while Arnaus is hoping to go one better than his three runner-up finishes so far in his rookie European Tour season.
Arnaus, who has finished second in Kenya, the Czech Republic already this season, said: “I’m really proud of how I’ve played these first two rounds.
“I’ve enjoyed it so much with the support of the crowds from home and also playing with Rahm and Rafa, it has been two fantastic days.
“You’re always a little bit nervous but at the end it’s just going out there and playing your best golf, and hopefully we can have some good rounds – and on Sunday we’ll see how it turns out,” added Arnaus, who would love to go one better than his last appearance in Spain, when he finished secodn in the Andalucia Masters at Valderamma, at the end of June.
Cabrera-Bello and Arnaus are one stroke ahead of journeyman Samuel Del Val who, in a bid to earn playing rights around the world, has spent the last four months on the road.
Del Val said: “It was a great round. I felt like I controlled both rounds really well, didn’t make many mistakes, only two bogeys.
“I had the putter going both days, made a couple of good ones and I’m in a good position going into the weekend.
“This is my 20th week of the last 23. I’ve been away from home for four months. I live in the States in Atlanta,” said the 32-year-old.
“I’ve been playing PGA Tour China, had some invites on the Challenge Tour too,” added De Val, who is ranked 1,413 in the world.
“After losing my card on the Web.com Tour last year, I decided to try and have both ways to get back to where I think I should be playing.”
In fourth place is defending champion Jon Rahm, who recovered from a double bogey on the second hole to card a four-under 67.
The three-time Rolex Series winner sits two strokes behind Cabrera-Bello and Arnaus.
Rahm said: “I was lucky to only be two over through two, I saved a heck of a par on that first hole.
“It was a little shaky, but things like that happen. I was battling bad swings two days ago, yesterday was great, today I was trying to find the same feeling but I figured it out after that double bogey.
“My body is feeling good and I’m hoping to start well tomorrow, give an early scare to these guys and get the lead,” added the former World Amateur No. 1, who played his college golf in the States at Arizona State – the same university as Phil Mickleson and Paul Casey.
“I keep forgetting (I’m defending champion). I’m so focused on what I have to do, I’m focused on beating Adri and Rafa.
“One more day tomorrow to get in position. Hopefully I can play a little bit better, get off to a good start and keep it going for 18 holes,” said Rahm.
Rahm birdied the 18th in front of thousands who came out in force to see the trio, who were grouped together for the first two rounds. The group are a combined 31-under heading into the weekend.
South African Zander Lombard is fifth on eight-under, one ahead of Finland’s Mikko Korhonen, Australias Jason Scrivener and Germany’s Marcel Siem.
•For live scoring in the third round of the Spanish Open, click here.