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Major dream comes true for Cabrera-Bello

Unheralded Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello fired an opening 70 to lie a shot off the lead at the US Open in California following a week of visa and baggage trouble.

After missing his original flight due to visa problems, and having to wait a day for his clubs to arrive in the Sunshine State, the 26-year-old made a dream major championship debut at Pebble Beach.

The Canary Islands-native carded four birdies and three bogeys to walk off the Pacific coast course one behind co-leaders Paul Casey of Britain, Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge and American Shaun Micheel.

Cabrera-Bello said he allowed himself a peek at the leaderboard just for fun and was thrilled to see his name on top.

"I could only dream about a day like this," a grinning Cabrera-Bello said after his round. "I maybe imagined it when I was eight or nine years old, but never expected something like this."

Cabrera-Bello, who won his maiden European Tour event last year with a final-round 60 at the Austrian Open, had to overcome some tiresome red tape to begin his Pebble Beach adventure.

After arriving at Madrid airport from the Canary Islands, visa problems kept him from his scheduled flight to the US. After a night at his uncle's house, he continued his journey.

And then when the Spaniard landed in San Francisco, his clubs were missing.


"My clubs spent the night in Philadelphia," he said after using borrowed wedges to casually explore the course.

He launched his US Open quest in the first group to tee off from the 10th tee at 7.0 local time.

"When I started off there were some guys, surprisingly a few guys," the slender Spaniard said about the Pebble Beach crowd. "I don't think they came to see me."

Cabrera-Bello, who won the Spanish national championship every year from the under-seven to U18 level, is determined to enjoy himself at the major.

"It was just a pleasure. Just stay calm like it's any other round," said Cabrera-Bello, who went four under par over the last seven holes of European qualifying for a US Open berth.

Asked what he expected of himself, he said: "Absolutely nothing. I would be a fool to expect anything. I'm just going to learn a lot just from being here and do as good as I can."