The Spaniard briefly flattered at the Irish Open a couple of weeks ago, climbing to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday before being run over by a Jon Rahm-shaped steamroller.
No doubt, a mountain of canny money will be piling on Rahm this week, but for anyone in search of a little Spanish adventure, Cabrera-Bello represents a value risk worth taking.
He is in form, clearly, and over the years has shown the adaptability and imagination required to compete with the best on links golf courses. Lest anyone forget, he won the 2017 Scottish Open against a very strong field. The competition at Portrush will be on another level, of course, but don’t be shocked if big Rafa raises his game for the biggest occasion.
Do you need to ask why? Koepka is the 500lb gorilla in the room of contemporary professional golf. His appetites and moods simply cannot be ignored or dismissed. If he wants to win, who will deny him?
Not many. Admittedly, his Open Championship record would hardly scare the skin off a bowl of cold porridge – tied sixth at Birkdale in 2017 is his best finish. But there is a relentlessness about the American these days that is reminiscent of Tiger Woods in his prime. A Koepka victory is not assured, but a top-5 finish @ 23/10 surely must be.
For one, fleeting, moment back in 2015, the Australian took on the mantle of his golfing mentor Tiger Woods, which is to say he looked unstoppable every time he stepped onto the course.
Top of the world rankings! Major championship winner! Alas, the Woods influence continued, but not in a good way. Day the golfer, became Day the sick note. The less he played, the more he was forgotten.
But something has stirred in his world this season. Good health and good form have been restored. He has had a couple of decent finishes in Majors this season. He also has a new caddy, and not just any old caddy. He has Steve Williams, Tiger’s long-time bagman, who is regarded as the best in the caddying business and for good reason.
He has a reputation for turning players into the very best of themselves. A good Jason Day at Portrush might crack the top 20. But with Williams around, the very best Jason Day might win it all.
The most under-stated and under-rated world class golfer in modern golf, Schauffele continues to knock at the door like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. One of these times he is going to get out the axe and be done with all the knocking. The Open Championship might just be his Major and Portrush might just be his place.
Unusually for a Californian, he is a brilliant links golfer, as he proved in finishing second at Carnoustie last year. He also has two top five finishes in Majors in 2019. Patience will be tested at Portrush, a golf course which few in the 156-field know well, but Schauffle has more patience than most.
The Englishman is smarter than the average bear and has a well-deserved reputation for being a social media savant (check out his twitter feed if you haven’t already). But he is also a brilliant old-school kind of golfer – a sensational ball-striker whose artistry is perfectly suited to an Open Championship.
He probably doesn’t drive the ball well enough to win around a brute of a course like Portrush – but his legion of social media followers can only hope that he might. What a winner’s speech he would deliver.
Rory, glutton for glory that he is, will hoover up most of the local support throughout the week. But on the off-chance the World No. 3 doesn’t meet home expectations, Lowry will surely count as an able stand-in.
Strangely for a player who has an affinity for links golf, his record in the Open Championship stinks. He has missed the last four cuts. On the upside, he is in decent form and knows the Portrush course better than most others in the field. He has the talent and imagination to answer every question the course will ask from tee to green. But what of the greens themselves? Lowry is a streaky putter. If he’s off this week then look elsewhere. But if he’s on, then why not?
*Prices correct at time of publishing but are as fluid as DJ’s swing