|Rafael Cabrera-Bello holds the trophy after winning the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 12, 2012. (ASHMED JADALLAH/Reuters)
DUBAI - For Lee Westwood, there will be a small measure of consolation, at least.
After storming out to a great start Sunday at the Dubai Desert Classic, carding an eagle on the second hole to grab a two-stroke lead in the early going, Westwood's putter abandoned him.
That allowed first-round leader Rafael Cabrera-Bello to post a 68 and seize the victory at 18-under par, one ahead of Westwood and Scot Stephen Gallacher.
It was a third runner-up finish at this event for Westwood, but he can take solace in the fact that he has wrested back the world No. 2 designation from Rory McIlroy. It's the fourth time in a year the pair has traded Nos. 2 and 3 in the official world golf ranking.
Cabrera-Bello became the third Spaniard in three years to win the Dubai Desert Classic, following last year's champ Alvaro Quiros and 2010 winner Miguel Angel Jimenez. He now counts himself as part of a strong legacy of Spanish players winning in the desert.
"It's an absolutely fantastic feeling, just to see my name on the same trophy as (Seve) Ballesteros, as (Jose Maria) Olazabal, as Miguel, as my good friend Alvaro," Cabrera-Bello said. "It means a lot to me."
Westwood and Gallacher both had putts on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but neither could get it done.
"I had a couple chances coming in, on 17 and 18, and I just misread them a bit," Gallacher said. "But on the whole I'm happy with it."
What many thought would be a final-round shootout between Westwood and McIlroy quickly disintegrated Sunday as the 22-year-old Northern Irishman failed to find his game early in the round, before rebounding on the back nine and finishing tied for fifth at 14-under.
Germany's Marcel Siem finished alone in fourth at 15-under.
Cabrera-Bello has one other European Tour victory, the 2009 Austrian Open, where he shot a 60 in the final round to take everyone by surprise. That victory was special because it was his first, but the 27-year-old said this one was a more complete package.
"This week has been very, very special, starting with leading the first day and then really being in contention absolutely every minute," he said. "I wouldn't change one (win) for the other."
The victory will open doors for the young champion, who will move up to somewhere around 60th in the world ranking, which could get him into tournaments such as the WGC match play.
It's the type of boost he has been looking for.
"I was really, really looking forward to having a quality jump in my career and this one could be it. Obviously there are things I need to improve on but I'm happy I will get more opportunities to play with the very best players in the world."