Angel Cabrera, a 37-year-old from Argentina who was persuaded to pick up the game from fellow Cordoba native Eduardo Romero, held off two past champions, including World No. 1 Tiger Woods, to post a one-stroke victory at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club and become the first South American to hoist the U.S. Open trophy.
Cabrera carded a 1-under-par 69 – one of two players to break par on Sunday – for a 72-hole total of 5-over 285. He also became the fourth consecutive player from the Southern Hemisphere to win the Open, joining Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy (2006), Michael Campbell (2005) of New Zealand and Retief Goosen (2004) of South Africa. And the only other South American to win a major was Roberto de Vicenzo, who captured the 1967 British Open.
Playing several groups in front of the leaders to start the day, the long-hitting Cabrera had the luxury of being able to post a target score for those behind him to chase. Once inside the clubhouse, the chain-smoking Cabrera had to sweat out the toughest 47 minutes of his life as he watched two-time champion Woods and 2003 winner Jim Furyk, the No. 3-ranked player in the world, try to beat or match him. Furyk’s Waterloo came at the short par-4 17th hole, when his aggressive drive found thick rough near the green. The bold play led to a bogey-5, and a par at 18 left Furyk at 6-over 286.
Woods, playing in the final pairing with 54-hole leader Aaron Baddeley of Australia, could never get his putter to heat up on the challenging Oakmont greens. He missed a tricky downhill 6-foot birdie at the par-3 13th and then had to grind out pars at 15, 16 and 17. At the final hole, Woods’ approach from the rough stopped 20 feet behind the flagstick. His birdie try just veered to the right of the hole, giving Cabrera the title.
While he enjoyed previous success on the European Tour and in South America, this was Cabrera’s first victory on American soil.
“I feel great,” said Cabrera. “It’s a great moment for me. I can’t believe it. It is very difficult to describe this moment. 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.”
The next day Cabrera was paraded through the streets of Cordoba with his U.S. Open trophy in tow, given the same hero status normally reserved for the country’s premier soccer and basketball players.