Where Angel Dares

By Brian HewittJune 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- The 107th United States Open is history now. And Argentinas Angel Cabrera has defeated all of the 155 other competitors to win the Championship.
 
Oakmont Country Club, meanwhile, won the week.
 
So, the question begs, who won here, in the battle for intergalactic golf supremacy: Cabrera or Oakmont?
 
Im going to call it a draw. And thats being generous to both.
 
It is very difficult to describe this moment, Cabrera said, through an interpreter, moments after Woods missed a long putt on the last hole that would have forced a playoff. Probably tomorrow when I wake up with this trophy beside me in my bed, I will realize that I have won the U.S. Open.
 
Cabreras 72-hole total was 5-over par 285, the same winning score as last years U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Cabreras closing 69 edged Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods by one shot. Furyk is the last American to win the U.S. Open (2003 at Olympia Fields). Woods is the No. 1 ranked player in the world.
 
And by the way, in case you didnt notice, the members of the grounds crew at Oakmont paid quiet homage to Woods Sunday. Wearing different outfits each day, they saved their best for last: Red shirts.
 
That was not, a USGA official told me, an accident.
 
Perhaps they should have picked yellow. Turns out Cabrera always wears a yellow PING shirt in the final round. Why? Tigers red is Angels yellow, explained Cabreras caddie.
 
Finishing second, Woods said, is never fun.
 
Meanwhile golf and life goes on. Woods prepares to be a father for the first time in the coming weeks. And the USGA quickly moves on to its year around preparations for the U.S. Open.
 
On Tuesday USGA agronomist Tim Moraghan, set-up guy Mike Davis, and Jim Hyler of the Championship Committee will travel to San Diego to visit Torrey Pines South, site of next years championship.
 
There they will meet up with course architect Rees Jones, who authored the redesign of Torrey Pines South back in 2001. Among other things, this group will determine how long they want the rough to be next June.
 
Oakmont and Torrey Pines South are very different. For starters, Jones said Sunday, Oakmont has bluegrass rough, Torrey Pines has kikuyu grass rough.
 
Jones also said Torrey Pines South will probably play firmer and faster than Oakmont but the greens wont be as fast. He also said trees, unlike at Oakmont, will come into play on many holes. They will, Jones said, be a factor.
 
Theyve actually removed a lot of trees, Moraghan said. But, he added the Torrey Pine is a protected tree and can only be moved (not removed) by the USGA with permission from local authorities.
 
Oakmont averaged about 7,200 yards this week. Torrey Pines has new tees that can stretch it to 7,600 yards although Moraghan said he was not aware any decision had been made yet on how long Torrey Pines South will play. Like Oakmont, Torrey Pines will play to a par of 70.
 
Cabrera will be there. Wearing a yellow shirt. Woods was left Sunday wondering why he hasnt been able to win either of this years majors despite being in the final pairing. Meanwhile he still hasnt won a major without having at least a share of the lead after 54 holes.
 
The long-hitting Cabrera was born into extreme poverty. And when he was just two years old his mother left him with his grandmother who raised him.
 
Cabrera earned money caddying in Argentina which makes him, among other things, a Cinderella story. Eventually he would catchy the eye of Argentinean touring pro Eduardo Romero, who knows plays on the Champions Tour.
 
Romeros nickname was El Gato. The Cat. Cabrera became El Pato. The Duck. Cabreras skill and feisty spirit impressed Romero so much that he entered into a 10-year contract with Cabrera.
 
Romeros part of the deal was to pay Cabreras expenses. In return Cabrera paid Romeros 10 per cent of his earnings. When the deal expired in 2004, Cabrera was glad and Romero was much richer.
 
Now Cabrera, a free agent of sorts, has $1,260,000 American dollars that he doesnt have to share with anybody.
 
His goal Sunday on the golf course, he said, was to relax. Yes, he said. I have had a lot of bad moments on the golf course in my life and now I have decided to take this more easily.
 
All week long Oakmont treated players with lighter attitudes better than the grinders.
 
Now Angel Cabrera can really lighten up.
 

Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

    Getty Images

    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

    Getty Images

    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

    Getty Images

    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”