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107th U.S. OPEN

Cabrera Rises Above Field

Angel Cabrera has to watch Tiger Woods play the final two holes before he becomes Argentina's first U.S. Open champion.
Angel Cabrera has to watch Tiger Woods play the final two holes before he becomes Argentina's first U.S. Open champion. (Matt Sullivan - Rueters)

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By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 18, 2007

OAKMONT, Pa., June 17 -- As Oakmont Country Club unleashed the full fury of its inner ogre on most of the field Sunday, an Angel from Argentina ascended to the pinnacle of professional golf in the 107th U.S. Open.

Angel Cabrera, who learned to play the game as a caddie in his home town of Cordoba, somehow managed to keep his wits about him as his closest contenders collapsed. By this wild day's end, Cabrera had held off Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world, and No. 3 Jim Furyk, who both tried mightily and failed miserably on the last three holes to make a birdie that would have forced a Monday playoff.

Cabrera, who carded his second under-par round of the tournament with a 1-under-par 69, opened a three-stroke lead when he hit a second shot from the first cut of rough to within two feet of the cup for a kick-in birdie at the 500-yard 15th hole.

That spectacular play gave him the cushion to withstand bogeys on two of his final three holes and finish with a 5-over total of 285, one better than Furyk (70) and Woods (72).

"I never thought that this was possible," said Cabrera, who was taught the game by another longtime Argentine touring professional, Eduardo Romero, a neighbor who encouraged him to take up golf at age 15 and helped teach him how to play. "It is very difficult to describe this moment. Probably when I wake up tomorrow with this trophy next to me in the bed, I'll realize it."

It was Woods's second straight tie for second in a major after failing to rally at the Masters in April. He has won each of his 12 major titles either sharing or holding the outright lead entering the final round and is 0 for 29 in them when trailing after 54 holes. This also marked the fourth straight year an American player has failed to win the country's national championship of golf.

"I've put myself there, played well and just haven't gotten it done," said Woods, who has two wins and two second-place finishes in his last four majors. "That's not terrible, but could have been a little better. . . . I felt like just keep hanging in there and you never know what can happen. I just didn't make a birdie coming in."

The 37-year-old Cabrera is known as "Pato," Spanish for duck, on the European Tour, where he plays most of his golf and has established a world ranking of No. 44. After he posted a 6-over 76 in the third round, the 36-hole leader looked every bit the dead duck as he began play Sunday four shots off the lead held by Australian Aaron Baddeley.

Instead, Baddeley quickly went winging off the leader board with a three-putt triple-bogey 7 on his first hole, opening the gates for a number of players to get right back in the hunt. Baddeley ballooned to a round of 80, 10 shots higher than his scores in the second and third rounds, and ended tied for 13th place.

Coming down the stretch on the back nine, only Woods, looking for his 13th major championship, and Furyk, trying for his second Open title, were able to put serious heat on Cabrera, a bull of a man who chain-smoked his way around this brutally difficult course and made spectacular recovery shots on a day in which he hit just 4 of 14 fairways.

Woods, who briefly was tied for the lead after two holes, essentially had to start playing from behind when he made his only double bogey of the tournament at the 428-yard No. 3. From the fairway, he hit his second shot over the back of the green and down a shaved embankment. His bladed third shot kicked off the top of the hill and kept rolling over to the other side of the putting surface. From there, he hit a poor chip to 15 feet and two-putted.

After a two-putt birdie at the 609-yard No. 4, Woods had none the rest of the way. He slipped back to 6 over for the tournament when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the 379-yard 11th, then made seven consecutive pars.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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