Angel Cabrera became the first golfer from Argentina to win the United States Open, posting a 1-under-par 69 in the final round en route to victory at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. Despite bogeys on two of the last three holes, Cabrera completed a one-stroke victory over Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, and Tiger Woods, who claimed the title in 2000 and 2002.
The 37-year-old Cabrera joined Roberto De Vicenzo, who won the inaugural U.S. Senior Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in 1980, as the only Argentine players to win a USGA championship. “This is going to be something to be remembered in Latin America,” Cabrera said through a translator, “not only in Argentina, but also in Latin America and probably some other places in the world.”
As the championship started on Thursday, many eyes were on Tiger Woods, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, who was seeking his first major championship victory of the year, while also hoping to redeem himself from a poor showing in the 2006 championship at Winged Foot, where he missed the cut. Attention also focused on Phil Mickelson, who was returning to competition for the first time in several weeks, having injured his wrist while playing a practice round at Oakmont in May. Woods opened the championship with a steady 1-over-par 71, while Mickelson faltered early, posting a bogey at the first hole en route to his opening round of 74. The first-round lead belonged to Nick Dougherty, the 25-year-old Englishman who rode four birdies and two bogeys to a 68. Cabrera, opening with 69, was the only other player in the 156-man field to beat par in the opening round.
In the second round, Cabrera posted 71, two shots higher than the previous day, but good enough to take the 36-hole lead at 140. Bubba Watson trailed by just one shot after shooting rounds of 70-71. Two strokes off the lead stood a foursome of international players that included Australia’s Aaron Baddeley, England’s Justin Rose, Canada’s Stephen Ames and Sweden’s Niclas Fasth. Woods lost ground with a second-round 74, falling five strokes off the pace set by Cabrera. Mickelson was one of 19 players at 11-over 151 who missed the cut when Cabrera birdied his final hole of the day, the ninth, after striking a sand wedge from 135 yards to within 2 feet of the hole.
On Saturday, Baddeley posted his second consecutive round of 70 to complete 54 holes at 2-over-par 212 and take a two-stroke lead into the final day. Lurking just two behind was Woods, whose third-round 69 would be his lowest score of the championship. Cabrera, meanwhile, struggled for the first and only time in the championship, posting a 76 that left him four strokes off the lead.
Baddeley’s lead over Woods lasted all of 10 minutes once the final pairing teed off on Sunday afternoon. Baddeley’s opening drive and second shot found the rough. Then, when he finally reached the green with his fourth shot, he three-putted for triple bogey. Although he would recover and fight back to regain a share of the lead within a few holes, he soon thereafter dropped out of sight, shooting a final-round 80 to finish at 12-over-par 292 in a tie for 13th.
Woods, meanwhile, posted par at the first hole, taking the lead for the first time in the championship at four over par through 55 holes. Although he played well from tee to green throughout the round, his putter let him down on several occasions. His missed a birdie putt from 6 feet at the 13th hole, and the only sizeable putts he made on the back nine were to save par. Over the final 32 holes of the championship, Woods posted just one birdie.
Six players held the lead, or a share of it, at some time during the final round: Cabrera, Baddeley, Woods, Ames, Furyk and Steve Stricker. Ames was tied for the lead after three holes until a triple bogey at the seventh and a double bogey at the ninth knocked him out of contention. Stricker shared the lead as he headed to the seventh tee, but five holes later had fallen five strokes off the lead.
Over the final nine holes, the battle was fought between Cabrera, Woods and Furyk. Cabrera, playing several groups ahead of Woods and Furyk, posted birdies at the 11th and 15th holes, taking him into the lead at three under par with just three holes remaining. But he gave two strokes back with bogeys at 16 and 17, before closing out his round with a solid two-putt par from 45 feet on the home hole. The leader in the clubhouse at five over par, Cabrera could only wait and watch.
Furyk seemed to put himself out of contention with bogeys at 11 and 12 that dropped him four strokes off the lead. But he righted his game and posted consecutive birdies at the 13th, 14th and 15th holes. Now tied with Cabrera at five over par, Furyk made a fateful decision when he chose to hit driver off the tee at the short, par-4 17th hole. His drive flew left and long, landing in deep rough to the left of the green. He failed to find the green with his second, chipped on with his third, then two-putted for bogey.
As Cabrera sat in the clubhouse watching the TV broadcast, Furyk failed to birdie the 72nd hole and finished one stroke back at 286. “No one likes consolation prizes,” Furyk remarked after completing his round. “I’m proud of the way I played, and I’m proud of those finishes. But second is not much fun, to be honest with you.”
Finally, it was Woods’ turn. When the two-time champion failed to post a birdie over the final three holes, he, too, finished one stroke off the lead. Cabrera’s 47-minute wait was finally over.
“I feel great,” said Cabrera. “It’s a great moment for me. I can’t believe it.”
Starts - 9
Best Finish - Winner 2007
Rds - 34
Cuts Made - 8
Top 3 - 1
Top 5 - 1
Top 10 -2
Top 25 - 3
Avg. - 72.97
Scores in 60s - 6
Rds Under Par - 6
Earnings - $1,651,290.00