Angel of Oakmont Cabrera Wins US Open

By Associated PressJune 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- Unlikely champion. Familiar scenario.
 
Angel Cabrera hit all the right shots to hold off Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk by a stroke on a Sunday of survival at the U.S. Open, shooting a 1-under-par 69 at brutal Oakmont and giving Argentina its first major championship in 40 years.
 
Angel Cabrera
Angel Cabrera is the fourth consecutive international player to win the U.S. Open. (Getty Images)
And for the second straight major, Woods played in the final group and couldn't deliver in the clutch.
 
Woods squandered birdie chances with his wedge and his putter, and Furyk paid for a risky choice of driver on the 306-yard 17th hole and fell out of the lead with a bogey.
 
That left Cabrera as the winner, and yes, he signed for the right score.
 
The only other Argentine to win a major was Roberto de Vicenzo in the 1967 British Open at Hoylake. He was equally famous for signing for the wrong score a year later at the Masters, keeping him out of a playoff.
 
'It is very difficult to describe at the moment,' an elated Cabrera said. 'Probably tomorrow, when I wake up with this trophy beside me, I will realize I won the U.S. Open.'
 
Cabrera made his share of mistakes -- everyone did on this brutally tough course outside Pittsburgh -- but he overcame late bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes with a perfect tee shot and a par that gave him the victory.
 
Even so, this major will be remembered for gaffes by the guys chasing him.
 
Woods, a runner-up to unheralded Zach Johnson at the Masters, played the final 32 holes at Oakmont with only one birdie. He missed a birdie putt from 6 feet on the 13th, and the only clutch putts he made on the back nine were for par.
 
'He put a lot of pressure on Jim and I, and we didn't get it done,' said Woods, who closed with a 72 and extended his dubious streak of never winning a major when he wasn't leading going into the final round.
 
Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion who grew up in western Pennsylvania, ran off three straight birdies on the back nine and was tied for the lead when he opted to hit driver on the 17th, where the tees were moved up. He hit so far and enough left that he had no angle to the pin, and the lie was so deep that he didn't even reach the green. His 8-foot par putt caught the lip and spun away.
 
Needing birdie on the final hole, Furyk dropped the club after contact, and his long putt never had a chance.
 
Cabrera, who had two of just eight sub-par rounds in the tournament and finished at 5-over 285, was in the clubhouse watching two of the best players in golf try to catch him.
 
As poorly as Woods hit the ball in the final round, he only needed one birdie over his final three holes to force a playoff. Woods hit 3-wood off the 17th tee into a deep bunker, but he couldn't keep it on the green and had to make a 7-footer for par.
 
His tee shot on the 18th looked good when it left his club, but hopped along the line of first cut and deep rough, and his approach ran some 30 feet by the flag. His birdie putt was just long and right, and Woods again was the last man to leave the 18th green at a major, no trophy in hand.
 
Cabrera might not have been the winner anyone expected, especially at Oakmont, which has produced U.S. Open champions of the highest caliber. But he earned his victory against the best.
 
Cabrera delivered a 1-2-3 knockout during a difficult week. A birdie on his final hole Friday caused second-ranked Phil Mickelson to miss the cut in a major for the first time in eight years, and he was even stronger down the stretch with Woods and Furyk, No. 1 and No. 3 in the world, both poised to catch him.
 
He blew a chance to win the esteemed BMW Championship in Europe last month by topping a tee shot on the back nine, and Cabrera showed signs of a struggle late in the afternoon when he three-putted for bogey on the 16th and missed the 17th green with a wedge from the fairway to drop into a tie for the lead with Furyk.
 
'He just kept himself calm,' caddie Eddie Gardino said. 'He might go and win the British Open, because he knows he can do it.'
 
Furyk went 70-70 on the weekend, and still had to settle for another silver medal for finishing tied for second. A year ago, he missed a 6-foot par putt on the final hole at Winged Foot and finished one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.
 
'I had a lot of opportunities,' Furyk said. 'It just didn't work out.'
 
Aaron Baddeley, who had a two-shot lead over Woods going into the final round, three-putted from 8 feet for triple bogey on the opening hole and wound up with an 80.
 
It was the third straight year no one broke par at the U.S. Open, the longest streak in 46 years.
 
That was no surprise at Oakmont, especially on Sunday.
 
Under steamy sunshine, with final-round pressure on a course reputed to be the toughest in America, every mistake was magnified.
 
Baddeley might have made the biggest blunder, and it set the tone for his day. He was in the short cut of rough to the right of the first green when he chipped toward the flag instead of the middle of the green, and it zipped by the hole and off the green. He chipped weakly to 8 feet and ran his bogey putt about 4 feet past. Two putts later, he had a triple bogey.
 
Six players had at least a share of the lead at some point, but not for long.
 
Stephen Ames opened with a 12-foot birdie and looked strong until he hooked a tee shot into the ditch on the seventh, tried to play out, finally chopped it to the right rough short of the green and walked off with a triple bogey.
 
Steve Stricker poured in birdie putts on the fifth and sixth holes to join the lead and closed out his front nine with two good pars for a 34. But he pulled his tee shot into a bunker on No. 10, had to play out sideways, then three-putted for double bogey.
 
Paul Casey was in such bad shape in a bunker on the par-3 sixth that he played backward, away from the green, chipped short of the green and took triple bogey on his way to a 43 on the front nine.
 
About the only players who didn't make any ugly errors -- or many errors -- were the players who ultimately contended for this title.
 
Cabrera traded birdies and bogeys along the front nine, most notably a birdie on the par-3 eighth hole that played 300 yards with the back tee and back pin. He looked as though he might pull away on the back, using his power for short birdies on the 11th and 15th.
 
Furyk finally stumbled with careless shots on the 11th and 12th, only to run off three straight birdies to get back in the game.
 
Woods, the best closer in golf, was a mystery.
 
He couldn't make a timely putt at the Masters. He couldn't find his swing at Oakmont.
 
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

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