Cabrera holds off Tiger to win US Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 US Open | Round Four | 18 Jun 2007
Angel Cabrera is the 2007 US Open and there is nobody who could deny his right to be. In what was a stunning last round of golf on arguably one of the most demanding golf course setups ever, the 37-year-old has changed his life forever and has added to the impressive record of golfers from the Argentine.
His one shot victory over the world number one and two at the Oakmont Country Club adds further to the lustre of the title and that he was able to so on such a great test of golf will mean even more to him.
While many will be suggesting this was a surprise victory, and to some extent it was, Cabrera has paid his dues having previously recorded six top tens in majors and won 15 tournaments worldwide. He had been close to the top ten in the world on occasions but in recent times had slipped to number 42 heading into this week. Cabrera’s previous success on the international stage has allowed him to adjust to the vagaries of the Oakmont layout and accepting the good with the bad. He certainly had both this week after leading through 36 holes then potentially blowing his chances with a third round of 76.
Despite his struggles on day three, Cabrera was still only four behind and only two out of second place when he headed into what was to be the greatest day of his golfing life. His first birdie came at the par five 4th when he hit his bunker shot to 4 feet and moved within one of Stephen Ames, who had birdied the first, and Tiger Woods after the third round leader, Baddeley, had made a mess of the first with a triple bogey.
Cabrera added another birdie at the 5th after a brilliant approach to two feet and he had joined the lead. Making very few mistakes (he was one of the very few players to avoid a double bogey all week) Carbera did bogey the 6th after his tee shot found the bunker and he missed from 12 feet but was back at just 4 over when he produced a magnificent birdie at the monster par three 8th after his fairway wood from the tee finished 20 feet behind the hole.
When he birdied the par three 11th after another great iron to two feet he moved to 3 over and led by one over Woods and by two over Furyk and four holes later he all but holed his second at the 500 yard par five to move to an improbable three under for the day and al of a sudden his lead was three.
Woods always appeared Cabrera’s greatest danger but the rock solid Jim Furyk was emerging as the man most likely when, after bogeys at the 11th and 12th holes, he picked up birdies at the 13th, 14th and 15th to move to five over and within one of the lead at that stage after Cabrera had dropped a shot at the 16th after being short with his tee shot and missing his par save from 10 feet.
Cabrera played smart at the 17th but missed the green after laying up form the tee and took another bogey and he and Furyk were tied at 5 over ahead of Woods at 6 over. Furyk’s turn for a mistake however was about to eventuate. With Cabrera in the group ahead and playing the last hole Furyk stood on the 17th tee sharing the lead. A decision was required to either lay up with an iron or go for it at the reachable par four. He took the driver but turned it over and was surprised as to just how far the ball travelled.
“I was surprised just how far that went as even though it was left of where I wanted I did not expect it to get that far up and leave myself with no angle,” he said later.
It was a costly mistake as he was in thick rough and had an all but impossible shot just to get it on the green. He was not able to do so and took bogey at the worst possible time. It left him Furyk with too much to do at the last as by then Cabrera had played the final hole superbly for a two putt par from 25 feet and although he had an outside chance from 40 feet for the birdie he needed, the task was too great.
That left only one man capable of changing the outcome of the tournament. Back on the golf course Woods was at 6 over and just one back. He had missed a great opportunity at the par five 15th, two putted for par at the 16th, and appeared to have his one last realistic chance at the 17th. He hit three wood from the tee and found the short right hand trap. His bunker shot was superb but just released enough to trickle over the left edge of the green and in the end made a great par saving putt to keep his hopes alive.
At the last Woods found the first cut of rough and although he hit a magnificent shot it released from that rough and ran 30 feet past. The putt to force the playoff tomorrow was too tough and he would finish second with Furyk.
“Finishing second is never fun,” said Woods later. “You play so hard, and it’s just disappointing. My last four majors, I’ve—1; 1; 2; 2; not terrible, but could have been a little bit better.”
“It’s hard, really hard,” added Woods referring to the golf course. “Considering that they softened the golf course up for us and we still shot 5-over par as a winning score that shows you how difficult this golf course really is. USGA did not set up the pins brutally like they did at Pinehurst. Here they were just brutal. They gave us a chance to play here, and we still shot 5-over. So that shows you how difficult this golf course is.”
It was a day where so many players had their chances. Angel Cabrera, Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Stephen Ames, Steve Stricker and Aaron Baddeley all led or had a share of the lead at various stages on the final day and several others knocked on the door. It was an intriguing day where the outcome was in doubt right up until Woods was unable to make his putt at the last but there can be little question that the best player on this week particular week won.
There was nothing lucky about Cabrera’s victory. For the fourth consecutive day only two players broke par and for the second time this week, Cabrera was one of them. He was able to bounce back after the disappointment of Saturday’s 76 and play with power, deft touch and great strategy. There were many other stories on this day and no doubt there will be many ‘what ifs’ in the analysis of the week but that will be of little concern to Cabrera.
Numerically South American golf has limited representation in the world of professional golf but in terms of strike rate they box well above their weight. Cabrera’s victory can only add to that and is likely to produce another wave of youngsters all looking to emulate their new national hero.
From an Australian perspective one of our own has led a major into the final day for the second time in 2007 only to fold. Aaron Baddeley was clearly nervous at the first and his three putt triple bogey there did him no favours. That he was able to consolidate over the next few holes was testament to a growing maturity in his game but the putter that had been his friend all week turned on him. His final round of 80 will leave a scar for a while but he will be back bigger and better when in that situation again.