Inside the Ropes Angel Cabrera
By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange – Officials of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, having gotten their wish with the tournament being made an official PGA Tour event, might be wondering where all the top players are this week. While a nice array of respected veterans such as Davis Love III, David Toms, Justin Leonard, Mike Weir, Scott Verplank, Stuart Appleby, Jerry Kelly and Robert Allenby will play this week in Mexico’s only event on the circuit, are only two players from the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings — No. 31 Ryan Moore and No. 47 Scott Piercy. However, the Mayakoba is very happy to have Angel Cabrera of Argentina.
“To have Latin America’s highest ranked player in the field is another reason we are so excited about this year’s tournament,” Tournament Director Joe Mazzeo said. “Angel is fun to be around, on and off the golf course, and I encourage all of the fans in the area to come see him play.” Cabrera is the third-highest-ranked player in the field at No. 56 and will give the Spanish-speaking galleries they can identify with at the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon course at Mayakoba Resort in Riviera Maya. Nicknamed “El Pato,” because of his duck-like walk, the two-time major champion proved this year that he is not over-the-hill at the age of 44 when he took Adam Scott to the second hole of a playoff before falling short of his second Green Jacket.
Cabrera’s revival came after he had almost disappeared from PGA Tour leaderboards, finishing in the top 10 only eight times, none in 2012, since he won the 2009 Masters in a playoff over Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell. However, he knew his game was back last December when he shot 8-under-par 64 in the final round to win the Visa de Open Argentina for the third time by four strokes over Miguel Carballo and Oscar Fraustro. Of course, hardly anybody in the United States knew about it because it wasn’t on Sports Center, and in fact, it probably made the news only in Argentina. “I’ve been working hard a lot, before that,” said Cabrera, who has won 51 times in his pro career “For two years, I was having some injuries that were bothering me, and I got to that tournament already with a lot of work behind it. “A lot of work and a lot of faith in myself. I have a lot of confidence in myself, and so I’m going to keep on going.” Had Cabrera pulled out his second victory at Augusta National, the Golf Channel would be replaying and talking about the shot he hit on the 72nd hole for years to come. After Scott holed a 22-foot birdie putt to take a one-stroke lead with El Pato standing in the 18th fairway, Cabrera hit a laser-like shot from 163 yards with his 7-iron to within three feet and set up a birdie to force the playoff. “It was the type of round that I expected,” said Cabrera, whose other major title came when he beat Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk by one stroke in the 2007 U.S. Open at Merion.
“I expected to score under par today, and I did (2-under 70), and I was able to get into the playoff. The only one thing in my head was about winning.” And he almost did, nearly chipping in for a birdie on the first playoff hole before Scott settled the matter and became the first Australian to win the Masters with a 12-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole. Cabrera, always a popular figure, earned even more fans with his graciousness in defeat. “I had, you know, the chance to play along with Adam,” said Cabrera, who spoke with Scott for several seconds when it was over. “Unfortunately in playoffs, it’s one on one, head-to-head. And there’s got to be only one winner, and he was able to win. “(I told him) that I was happy for him; that I know that he deserved it, and that he was going to eventually win it like he did right now. It was just a matter of time. He’s a great person, a great player. I get along with him. We’ve been together in Presidents Cups, and I’m happy for him.” Cabrera had enough to return to Argentina the following week and win his hometown event, the Abiero Del Centro at Cordoba Golf Club, for the eighth time, electrifying his biggest fans one more time. After struggling to a 4-over-par 76 in the third round, he closed with a 64, including an eagle on the 18th hole to tie Rafael Gomez, and this time he won the playoff.
“I would have rather won the week before, but to play in front of my people and my town, yes, I’m very happy with that,” he said. Cabrera has a history of coming up big in the big events, with 10 top-10 finishes in the majors. The Masters and U.S. Open are his only victories on the PGA Tour and he figures he has more in him in the Grand Slam events. After all, Julius Boros captured the PGA Championship at the age of 48. “I’ve already won the U.S. Open and the Masters, and they’re very important, but the next one that comes is going to be fine,” said Cabrera, who missed the cut in Fry’s.com Open and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, but he also missed the weekend in his last two events before winning the Masters. “I like the challenges, and so (the majors) are very, very important for me. So sometimes they take my best out of me.” This week he hopes it happens in what might become Latin America’s major.