Masters Week: Angel Cabrera Thrives in the Eye of the Storm

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U.S. Open and Masters winner Ángel Cabrera, is such a legend. Some collapse like a house of cards in the big moment, not “El Pato” as he’s affectionately called by his admirers. He thrives, comes alive and will rip your heart out.

Some players are a bit too calculated for some fans; they come off as overzealous. These types follow a fitness routine created by their team of handlers: they have exercise scientists, a putting coach, full swing coach, short game coach and a sports psychologist too.

All that effort should yield wins every week, but then a John Daly, Fuzzy Zoeller or Ángel Cabrera comes along and rewrites the rules. The lab created specimen is getting their eight hours of rest while the other is out having cocktails and a few smokes. Two men enter the ring, one loses, the other puts on a green jacket; the guy smoking cigs is the champion.

El Pato addresses the media in Colombia

El Pato addresses the media in Colombia

We spent a few days with Ángel Cabrera in Colombia last December and watched him operate. Along with Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas and Sebastian Munoz; Cabrera was there to compete in the Karibana Skins Match at TPC Cartagena. Els stands about 6-foot-4, he’s won four majors, he’s in the hall of fame, but no green jacket. Villegas is built like an Olympic gymnast, he’s won on the Tour, but no majors. And then there’s Cabrera. He wasn’t smoking like the old days, but it doesn’t appear he’s spending a lot of time in the gym. It doesn’t matter — Cabrera was the coolest guy in the room.
Cabrera has five wins on the European Tour and three on the PGA Tour: the 2014 The Greenbrier Classic, 2009 Masters and the 2007 U.S. Open Championship. Imagine for a moment that 66% of his PGA wins are majors. He didn’t play well at the skins match, but it didn’t matter. His resume speaks for itself.

Els and Cabrera coming down the stretch at the Karibana Skins Match at TPC Cartagena

Els and Cabrera coming down the stretch at the Karibana Skins Match

After spraying the ball all over the golf course, Cabrera flipped a switch late in the round. On the par five No. 13 he and Munoz were fighting for the skin, Els and Villegas were out. Cabrera was in with a birdie and Munoz stood over a two-foot putt to force the push. Cabrera stood behind the 24-year-old PGA Tour rookie with a sly grin. Just as Munoz was about to take the putter away Cabrera shouted, “It’s good!” It was a master and apprentice moment, everyone in the gallery laughed. A few holes later Cabrera rolled in a birdie, Els had to answer to push the hole. After making his putt, Cabrera jokingly put his putter on the ground to block the hole. It didn’t matter, Els missed and Cabrera won the hole. Cabrera finished with a few skins on the day, there was no way in hell he was going to get shutout.

Brilliant play and a 15-footer for birdie in sudden death from Adam Scott was the only thing that kept Cabrera from a second green jacket in 2013. He finished tied for 24th last year and tied for 22nd in 2015; anything could happen in 2017. He’s ranked No. 624 in the world right now. In five events this year he’s missed the cut three times. His best finish this year was a four under tie for 34 at the Shell Houston Open last week.

Some might look at Cabrera’s world ranking and laugh at the thought of him winning. Others won’t care because they know Cabrera doesn’t give a damn about world ranking.

The odds-makers have Cabrera at 10,000 to one to win. There are less than a handful of tournaments that peak El Pato’s interest; this week at Augusta National Golf Club is one. Cabrera’s a made man, never doubt the don.

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