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Angel gets his wings

Argentina's Cabrera shoots 69 and survives challenges from Woods and Furyk

June 18, 2007|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

OAKMONT, PA. — Tiger Woods missed a right-to-left putt Sunday that would have forced a playoff at Oakmont Country Club, and the 107th U.S. Open officially became "The International Open of America."

Angel Cabrera of Argentina, not to be confused with the shortstop who plays for Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, waddled off with the championship by shooting one-under-par 69 and finishing five-over 285.

That was enough, on a humid day and a treacherous track, to hold off Woods and Jim Furyk, who ended up one shot back at 286. Niclas Fasth finished fourth at 287, and David Toms and Bubba Watson finished four shots back at 289.

Cabrera joins a U.S. Open winners' line behind Geoff Ogilvy (Australia, 2006), Michael Campbell (New Zealand, 2005) and Retief Goosen (South Africa, 2004).

But at least, this year, two Americans finished second.

After four rounds of a wild kingdom, survival-of-the-fittest competition, a man nicknamed "Pato" (duck, in Spanish) beat a Tiger on a day when a bear had to be chased from the seventh fairway.

English is definitely a second language for the 37-year-old Cabrera, but he soaked up a lot of American love as he celebrated his victory with the gallery.

"I watched all the majors on TV when I was a kid, and I never thought I would be here at this moment," Cabrera said. "It is very difficult to describe this moment. Probably tomorrow when I wake up with this trophy beside my bed, I will realize that I have won the U.S. Open."

All Cabrera did to win is get in the clubhouse first at five over and then wait to see whether two former U.S. Open winners, Woods and Furyk, could track him down.

The smart money would have guessed it would happen, but guess what:

Cabrera won his first major in his 31st try.

He became the first Argentine to win the event and only the second man from his country to win a major, joining Roberto de Vicenzo, who claimed the 1967 British Open. Unlike De Vicenzo, who lost a chance to win the 1968 Masters when he signed an incorrect scorecard, Cabrera had all his U.S. Open paperwork in order.

Cabrera was the only player this week to shoot two rounds under par.

"Angel played a beautiful round of golf," Woods conceded.

Cabrera, though, gave Woods and Furyk a back-nine opening and almost frittered away the tournament by making bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 before closing with a clutch par at the 18th.

Furyk, tied for the lead and playing one group behind Cabrera, botched his chance when he hit driver into the thick, greenside rough at the short No. 17 and chopped out for a bogey. Furyk made par at No. 18, but it was too late.

Last year, he made bogey at the 72nd hole at Winged Foot to finish one shot behind Ogilvy.

"No one likes consolation prizes," Furyk, who shot even-par 70, said afterward. "A second is not that much fun, to be honest with you."

Tell Woods about it.

He sought his 13th professional major title, but he couldn't find a birdie in his bag when he needed it. He managed only one birdie in his last 32 holes, on the par-five fourth hole Sunday, as he finished with a 72.

Woods has won all of his 12 majors while having at least a share of the lead Sunday, but has yet to win one from behind.

He was one shot back entering the final round of this year's Masters, seized a piece of the lead early, but then yielded the title to little-known Zach Johnson.

Two majors. Two opportunities lost.

"That's one of the things I need to go back and analyze," Woods said of his game.

He started Sunday two shots behind leader and final-round partner Aaron Baddeley. And although Baddeley collapsed to a 10-over 80 after opening with a triple bogey and Woods briefly took a piece of the lead, the world's No. 1 player couldn't hold it.

A double-bogey six at the par-four third had Woods in catch-up mode all day.

Woods, at six over, still had three holes left with Cabrera safely in the clubhouse at five over, but he could manage only pars.

It all came down, fittingly, to the mighty par-four 18th, which played the toughest all week -- to an average of 4.6.

Woods needed some magic to force a playoff and thought he drilled his three-wood off the tee only to watch it skid to a stop along the second cut of rough.

Woods used all his strength to muscle a wedge shot from there, taking a huge clump of grass with his swing, but his shot ended up 25 feet from the pin, with a big right-to-left break.

When Woods could not coax his birdie putt home, Cabrera became the improbable winner. A player who likes to sneak puffs from a cigarette and swing from the heels, he picked a fine time to score his first big win on American soil. He had scored three wins on the PGA European Tour but has never savored anything like Sunday.

Cabrera prevailed while golf carnage unfolded around him.

Players did free falls from the leaderboard.

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