Oakmont Lookback, 2007: Angel Cabrera, in His Own Words

Angel Cabrera birdied the eighth hole during the final round of the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, en route to victory. (USGA/Jason Bridge)
Angel Cabrera birdied the eighth hole during the final round of the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, en route to victory. (USGA/Jason Bridge)

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This story about the 2007 U.S. Open Championship, in which Angel Cabrera recounts his one-stroke victory over Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods, is the last in a 16-part series detailing every USGA championship contested at Oakmont Country Club in suburban Pittsburgh, which is hosting its ninth U.S. Open June 16-19.

Angel Cabrera grew up as an orphan and a caddie near the city of Cordoba, Argentina, where he idolized Seve Ballesteros and where, he once said, “I grew up fighting against the world.” Cabrera won three times on the PGA European Tour before, in 2006, he began splitting his time between the PGA Tour and the European Tour.

Cabrera first contended in a major in the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie, where he tied for fourth, one stroke out of the playoff won by Paul Lawrie. That remained the best of his six top-10 finishes in majors entering the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he shot 69-71-76 to start the final round four strokes behind leader Aaron Baddeley.

Cabrera’s final round of 1-under 69 was his second under-par round of the championship, and only the eighth under-par score recorded by the entire field that week. It gave Cabrera a 72-hole score of 5-over 285 to edge Furyk (final-round 70) and Woods (72) by one stroke.

Coming close to winning majors a couple of times helped me believe I could do it. I also had a good tournament two weeks earlier, at the BMW Championship in London, which boosted my confidence going into the U.S. Open.

During my practice rounds at Oakmont, already I had the feeling that my golf was at its best. The greens were extremely tough to read, but I knew everybody was struggling with them. On the other hand, I was driving the ball like never before, long and straight, a combination that proved to be the best weapon for Oakmont.

When I was driving toward the club on Sunday morning, I told my manager, Manuel Tagle, “We’re two shots back of Tiger.” I knew he was the man to beat. He was at his prime and always tough in the final round of a major.

I remember several key shots on the final day. A chip on No. 3 from behind the green to 4 feet that allowed me to save par was an extremely difficult shot, as the ball could have easily rolled back to my feet or gone back over the front of the green.

I made a very important putt to save bogey on the ninth hole. It was essential to avoid that double bogey, especially since I had just made a great birdie on No. 8 by hitting a 3-wood to 20 feet on that 300-yard par 3. My second shot on No. 15 to set up birdie was also special as it almost went into the hole from 165 yards.

Even after making bogeys on 16 and 17, I knew I was still leading as I stood on the 18th tee, and I could see that Jim Furyk’s tee shot on 17 ended up in a really bad lie. A good drive here was key to put up a number that was going to be difficult to catch. I was thinking nothing but positive thoughts: just me, my drive and the 18th fairway. I can’t forget that drive: 346 yards, straight down the middle.

I could not believe I had won until I woke up the following morning and saw the trophy in my hotel room next to my bed. Until that time, it was like a wild dream. Winning at Oakmont was the most amazing time of my life. It allowed me to realize I could win anything in golf. My confidence skyrocketed – that year, I won the Grand Slam of Golf, the Singapore Open and lost to Ernie Els in the final of the World Match Play at Wentworth. It was an incredible year that I will never forget.

But the most incredible feeling was coming home with the U.S. Open Trophy. There was a huge parade from the airport to the town hall with my family and friends and all the people of my hometown. At the end of the year, I was given the Olimpia de Oro as the sportsperson of the year for Argentina. It was great recognition from the sports journalists to give a golfer the biggest prize in a country that is usually all about Maradona, Messi and futbol above all things.