Angel Cabrera, a 37 year old native of Argentina with a blocky body and a sweet swing, held off a late charge from Jim Furyk, the #3 player in the world, and #1 Tiger Woods to win the 2007 edition of the U.S. Open. Tiger Woods stayed in contention all day in spite of problems with the “flat stick”, but couldn’t pull out a victory, which would have been his first come from behind win in a Major. The course at Oakmont, PA, site of this year’s U.S. Open, has been described as the toughest in North America, and one would have a hard time disputing that as the best players in the world could finish 72 holes at the course no better than 5 over par.
Aussie Aaron Baddeley led after 3 days, only to play “badly” on Sunday, shooting a 10 over par 80, to finish way back in the pack. The husky 6’0 209 lb. Angel Cabrera took the lead early on the back nine and played as if he had an angel on his shoulder, winning in spite of bogeys on 16 and 17 to see a 3 stroke lead cut to one. In between pufffs of a cigarette on the last hole, Cabrera hit a brilliant tee shot in the middle of the fairway, made his par and watched on TV from the clubhouse as first Jim Furyk and then Tiger Woods failed to birdie down the stretch.
Big, blocky body, puffing on a cigarette while walking down the fairway, the long driving Cabrera might have appeared as a Latino John Daly if he had another 60 lbs. or so and a few scratches on his face. Cabrera has long been considered as too inconsistent around the greens, especially with the putter, to win a Major, (which the U.S. Open is the second of four on the PGA Tour), despite an angelic swing. This marks the second year in a row that a non U.S. resident has won golf’s most “democratic” Tournament as described by Roy “Tin Cup” McEvoy. McEvoy, as played by Kevin Costner of Tin Cup. The 10th anniversary of the film is this year, the story of a driving range club pro playing his way into the U.S. Open. The U.S. Open is available for any amateur to appear in, as long as he, or she, has a low enough handicap and can win some sectional qualifiers.
While Cabrera winning the U.S Open wasn’t as big an upset as an amateur winning would have been, Angel Cabrera’s victory caught all the “experts” by surprise. A player with problems around the green, the putter in particular, is just not supposed to win on a course like Oakmont, with it’s very undulated greens, which are slick and hard as the floor of a skating rink. Gary McCord of CBS was banned by the Lords of Augusta for saying that the greens were “bikini waxed” for the Masters a few years ago, and the putting surface at Oakmont was much the same.
In the end, Angel Cabrera simply kept the ball in play and outputted Tiger Woods, with Furyk too far behind early to make up his deficit. Cabrera would have been roundly criticized for sitting in the clubhouse so long without loosening up at all, if Furyk or Woods had birdied to force a playoff. Oh well, the 37 year old Argentine Angel Cabrera probably would not have been able to understand what NBC commentator Johnny Miller was saying in the booth, anyhow. You can call Cabrera a lot of things, but just call him the 2007 U.S. Open Champion.
In the Trophy presentation, after slapping hands with Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera, spoke through an interpreter, a first in the 107 year history of the U.S. Open. When asked by Bob Costas of NBC who would win a popularity contest in Argentina between he and Manu Genobili, another Argentine and star NBA player of the recently crowned 2007 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, Cabrera did not need the interpreter. Angel Cabrera flashed a winning smile and simply replied “Genobili”.I have a feeling the gap has been narrowed.