Niall Kearney leads the Irish contingent in Gran Canaria
Rafa Cabrera-Bello is hosting event on his home island for first time
Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain plays his second shot from the trees on the ninth hole during the first round of the Gran Canaria Open at Meloneras Golf Club. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
Tournament host Rafa Cabrera-Bello revelled in some socially-distant support as he made an excellent start to his bid to end an almost four-year winless drought on home soil.
Cabrera-Bello is following in the footsteps of the likes of Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood in hosting a European Tour event, the inaugural Gran Canaria Lopesan Open.
And the 36-year-old, who was born on the island, ended the first round at Meloneras Golf just two shots off the lead after carding six birdies and a solitary bogey in an opening 65.
Niall Kearney was the best of the Irish with a four-under par round of 66 leaving him in a tie for 25th, three shots off the four-way tie for the lead. Meanwhile, Cormac Sharvin carded a 67 while Paul Dunne and Jonathan Caldwell both sit at two under after 68s.
“I am very happy,” said Cabrera-Bello, who was unbeaten in three matches on his debut at Hazeltine in 2016 and won the Scottish Open the following year.
“I have been saying it all week that it is a pleasure to have the European Tour back in the Canaries and for someone that was born here, raised here, and I come as often as I can, I always tell everyone how nice it is here, so I am glad we get the opportunity to showcase it to the rest of the world.
“I am missing a big crowd but I am feeling the support. Some of the holes close to the road had people cheering which was cool, so I want to give them a big thank you for coming out even though they are not here as normal, but they were able to see a little bit of golf.
“Hopefully, this is not the last year we are here, and it becomes a permanent stop on the European Tour.”
Holland’s Joost Luiten, Denmark’s JB Hansen, Germany’s Max Kieffer — who lost a five-hole play-off in the Austrian Open on Sunday — and France’s Robin Roussel shared the lead on seven under par, with Luiten making a hole-in-one on the 15th, his sixth hole of the day.
“It was a perfect number for me to hit a wedge,” Luiten said. “It’s tucked just over the bunker but you can use the slope, right to left. I pitched it on the slope with a bit of spin and it went in.
“It’s one of these bonus things that happens sometimes, it’s always nice to make a hole-in-one. This is my fifth on Tour, and my seventh overall. You can never have enough, I always say.”
Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and the English trio of Richard Bland, Ben Evans and Matt Ford were among those a shot off the lead on six under par, Jamieson in particular enjoying the change in temperature from last week’s event in Austria.
“I’ve never been that cold on a golf course,” Jamieson said after his bogey-free 64. “I’m sure I’ve gone soft now I live in America.
“One of my tendencies is to move my arms too much and not my body, so when you have more clothes on and it’s that cold it’ll encourage you to turn less — so it’s not for me.”
First round scores from the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open, Meloneras Golf, Gran Canaria, Spain (British unless stated, Par 70):
63 Robin Roussel (Fra), Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), Joost Luiten (Ned), Joachim B. Hansen (Den)
64 Wil Besseling (Ned), Scott Jamieson, Richard Bland, Matt Ford, Julian Suri (USA), Ben Evans, Alejandro Del Rey (Spa),
65 Thorbjoern Olesen (Den), Rhys Enoch, Rafael Cabrera (Spa), Oliver Wilson, Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Matthias Schwab (Aut), Justin Harding (Rsa), Jamie Donaldson, Gregory Havret (Fra), Garrick Higgo (Rsa), Eddie Pepperell, Dean Burmester (Rsa), Clement Sordet (Fra)
66 Zander Lombard (Rsa), Pablo Larrazabal (Spa), Niall Kearney (Irl), Max Schmitt (Ger), Maverick Antcliff (Aus), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Lars van Meijel (Ned), Jake McLeod (Aus), Jack Senior, Francesco Laporta (Ita), Darius van Driel (Ned), Borja Virto (Spa), Benjamin Poke (Den), Antoine Rozner (Fra), Ajeetesh Sandhu (Ind)
67 Tom Gandy (IoM), Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (Tha), Svn-Hwan Kim (Kor), Sean Crocker (USA), Romain Langasque (Fra), Ondrej Lieser (Cze), Nicolai Hoejgaard (Den), Matthew Jordan, Lorenzo Gagli (Ita), Lee Slattery, John Catlin (USA), Jeff Winther (Den), Ivan Cantero (Spa), Cormac Sharvin (NIrl), Ashun Wu (Chn), Alvaro Quiros (Spa), Alexander Bjoerk (Swe), Adrian Meronk (Pol)
68 Victor Dubuisson (Fra), Tyler Koivisto (USA), Toby Tree, Robin Sciot-Siegrist (Fra), Richie Ramsay, Richard Mansell, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Paul Waring, Paul Dunne (Irl), Oliver Farr, Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Marcel Schneider (Ger), Kalle Samooja (Fin), Julien Guerrier (Fra), Jordan Smith, Jonathan Caldwell (NIrl), Joel Stalter (Fra), Haydn Porteous (Rsa), Grant Forrest, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spa), Garrick Porteous, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry), David Drysdale, Calum Hill, Andrew Johnston
69 Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Sebastian Heisele (Ger), Sebastian Garcia (Spa), Sam Horsfield, Ross Fisher, Richard McEvoy, Ricardo Santos (Por), (a) Oscar Sanchez (Spa), Oliver Fisher, Nino Bertasio (Ita), Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Marcus Armitage, Louis de Jager (Rsa), Justin Walters (Rsa), Jorge Campillo (Spa), Janne Kaske (Fin), James Morrison, Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind), Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Dale Whitnell, Austin Bautista (Aus), Alfredo Garcia-Heredia (Spa), Adrien Saddier (Fra), Adria Arnaus (Spa)
70 Steven Tiley, Scott Fernandez (Spa), Samuel Del Val (Spa), Liam Johnston, Johannes Veerman (USA), Guido Migliozzi (Ita), David Coupland, Chris Wood, Carlos Pigem (Spa), Berry Henson (USA), Ashley Chesters, Andy Sullivan, Alexander Levy (Fra), Alejandro Canizares (Spa), Adrian Otaegui (Spa)
71 Yi-Keun Chang (Kor), Thomas Sloman, Steven Brown, Soeren Kjeldsen (Den), Sebastian Soederberg (Swe), Pep Angles (Spa), Pedro Oriol (Spa), Matthew Southgate, Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Kurt Kitayama (USA), Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (Fra), Euan Walker, Eduardo de la Riva (Spa), David Law, David Howell, Connor Syme, Carl Suneson (Spa), Aaron Cockerill (Can)
72 Pedro Figueiredo (Por), Eduard Rousaud (Spa), Benjamin Hebert (Fra)
73 Ross McGowan, Rikard Karlberg (Swe), Joakim Lagergren (Swe)
74 Shiv Chawrasia (Ind), Peter Hanson (Swe)
76 Ignacio Elvira (Spa)
78 Andrea Pavan (Ita)
83 Inaki Urriza (Spa)