Els captured this title three times in a row twice, first from 1994-96, then from 2002-04. It was his 24th win on the European Tour and the first-place check moved him to the top of the Order of Merit.
'It's a dream come true,' said Els, who has a house on the course at Wentworth Club. 'I wouldn't have thought in my wildest dreams I could win this tournament seven times. It's unbelievable. It's been a great week.'
Els built a 3-up lead thanks to a birdie on the ninth hole in the morning. Cabrera got the 12th after a poor drive by Els, but Els got back to 3-up with a long birdie putt at 14.
Both players birdied the 15th, but Els hit another poor drive at 17 and lost to go 2-up. Cabrera gave him another hole before lunch when he made a mess of the par-4 closing hole.
After the break, Els had birdie looks at one and two, but failed to convert. He hit yet another bad drive at the third and his second shot nicked a tree. His third landed 15 feet short of the green, giving himself a chance at par. Cabrera missed right with his approach, then ran his chip 5 feet past. Els holed the putt to put the pressure on Cabrera to have to make his to halve the hole. Cabrera did not and Els moved 4-up after the unlikely par.
The duo birdied four and five to halve the next two, but Els blinked at six. He missed a 6-footer for birdie at the hole and Cabrera's ball rolled around the entire cup before falling for a birdie to cut the deficit to 3-down.
Neither player had good looks at birdie at either seven or eight and both made pars. Cabrera hit a spectacular approach inside 2 feet at the ninth and was conceded the hole when Els missed a 30-footer for birdie.
Now only 2-up with nine to play, Els hit a great tee ball to 18 feet at the par-3 10th. He sank the birdie putt to reclaim his 3-up margin.
At the par-5 12th, Els two-putted for a birdie. Cabrera had 7 feet to halve the hole and stay within striking distance, but hammered it through the break to fall 4-down with six to play.
Cabrera missed the green left at the 13th and knocked his third over the other side of the green. He chipped to a foot and was conceded bogey. Els had a birdie putt from the fringe, but only needed two putts to win the hole. He lagged to a foot and was conceded the win that put him 5-up with five to play.
Els hit a great iron shot to the par-3 14th green, stopping 10 feet right of the stick. Cabrera, needing to win every hole to square the match and force extra holes, hit his over the putting surface.
He chipped 4 feet past the hole, then walked over to shake Els' hand, conceding the match to the three-time major winner.
'Today it was all there, especially this afternoon,' said Els, who won this season's South African Airways Open. 'I didn't miss many shots and I putted nicely so it was really a nice, enjoyable round.'
This was Cabrera's best finish in this tournament. He lost in the semifinals in 2005, but this has been an amazing year for the Argentine with his first major victory at Oakmont.
'I had a great week. I played my best today, it wasn't enough. Ernie played better than me, so he won,' Cabrera said through an interpreter. 'I was lucky to win the U.S. Open. I wasn't having a good year so far until there.'