In a lead up to the Ryder Cup and in the same vein as our YOTTO profiles of old, NLU will be profiling some up and coming players on both sides of the cup. Today’s profile on Rafael Cabrera Bello is by Guest Contributor Thomas Spagnola, a rising senior and co-captain of the Bowdoin College golf team.

Rafael Cabrera Bello is a thirty-two year old Spaniard poised to make his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine. He currently ranks fifth in World Points and seventh in European Points, the former of which will likely be enough to solidify his place on the team.* Though he has flown under the radar for most of his 11 year pro career, success in 2016 has moved Rafa and his pastel Oakley attire to the periphery of the PGA Tour limelight. His Oakley outfits are traditionally less atrocious than Bubba’s and Zach’s, but we offer him a pass mainly due to his murdered-out look at the 2015 Irish Open seen below (The Euros should make this their team uniform, buff and all). With an all-around game that features above-average distance, solid tee-to- green play, and consistent putting, Rafa will look to make waves in Minnesota this fall.

RCB’s cameo as a villain in the upcoming Bourne movie.

Given his laid-back style, love of surfing, and superb iron play, Rafa can be best classified as a Spanish-lite version of Adam Scott. The sweet-swinging Spaniard has two professional victories on the European Tour since turning professional in 2005, but 2016 is shaping up to be a career year. In his pursuit of another victory, Rafa has posted six Top-10s and twelve Top-25s this season, including numerous strong performances on American soil. His results include a 3rd at the WGC Dell Match Play, a 4th place finish at the Shell Houston Open, T-11th at the WGC Cadillac Championship, and T-17th at the Masters. Bello currently sits 27th in the OWGR and 4th in the Race for Dubai. Though its fair to be skeptical of European players and their OWGR given the European Tour’s typically weak field strength compared to the PGA Tour, Rafa has shown that he’s a legitimate threat against the world’s best, and right on queue, he’s atop the leaderboard at Wyndham this week with a first round 63 (fingers crossed he avoids the “Camilo” move down the leaderboard tomorrow…).

Look at that MOVE.

Match Player

In addition to his recent stretch of compelling golf, Rafa’s career match play record is impressive at 10-5, highlighted by the 3rd place finish at the WGC Dell Match Play. (Courtesy of a consolation victory over the less than enthusiastic Rory McIlroy.) This match play prowess could bolster the one area where the European Team has recently lagged behind the U.S. Team; rookie performance. Dating back to the 2010 Ryder Cup, the European rookies have an overall record of 12 wins (35%), 15 losses (44%), and 7 halves (21%). This record falls short compared to the U.S. rookie overall record of 23 wins (46%), 18 losses (36%), and 9 halves (18%). And, perhaps Rafa can channel the stellar past performances of his countrymen in the Ryder Cup; Spanish players have historically won or halved 68% of their Ryder Cup matches. Rafa’s early August trip down to Rio for the Olympics with Sergio Garcia presents an opportunity for Darren Clarke to pair the Spaniards together in the Ryder Cup. After the Garcia/McIlroy pairing finished with a 1-1- 1 record at Gleneagles in 2014, the Ryder Cup stalwart may be searching for a new partner. Keep an eye on RCB in September.

Stud (despite the Oakley threads).

* Footnote: The European Ryder Cup team’s bemusing ranking system includes two different lists: European Points list and the World Points list. Of the nine total players that qualify via points, four players come from the European Points list and five players come from the World Points list.