Cabrera Clutches U.S. Open, Foiling Woods
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
So, just a few holes remained in golf's toughest championship. It was on one of golf's toughest courses. Some of the world's best players were fighting to take the lead, and they were all chasing the leader - an unknown player from Argentina. As you watched the TV coverage, you could almost hear the assumption that that player, Angel Cabrera, would somehow collapse.
Commentator John Feinstein was at the Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburgh to tell us what really happened. John, how'd it go?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, how it went was that Angel Cabrera was the last man standing, Steve. That's what it amounts to. His winning score was five over par. That's the second straight year the winning score at the open was five over par.
And, Jim Furyk made a tactical error coming down the stretch - an experienced player. And Tiger Woods - the best player in the word - simply couldn't make a birdie when he had to. When he had the lead earlier in the round, he couldn't hold it, and then he couldn't charge late, and Cabrera was the last guy standing, as I said.
INSKEEP: He shot a 69 under par at a brutally tough course under incredible pressure. How'd he do that?
FEINSTEIN: He kept his ball in the fairway, which is always the key at Oakmont, because if you find the rough, you get into huge trouble. It's an almost certain bogey. And he hit a couple of iron shots that were just amazing. The 15th hole is one of the toughest holes on the golf course, and he hit his ball about 18 inches from the cup for his last birdie of the day.
At that point, he had a three-shot lead. Then he started to wobble a little -made a couple bogeys on 16 and 17, but got his act together on 18, and as I said, hung on for dear life.
INSKEEP: Tiger Woods still got within a shot of him, had a long, long putt on the very last green that would have tied, and just missed.
FEINSTEIN: Yeah, and - but he lost the tournament earlier in the day. He actually looked like he was going to walk away and win. When the third-round leader, Aaron Baddeley, started with a triple bogey and all of a sudden, Tiger Woods tied for the lead. This is the second straight major when Tiger got the lead or tied for the lead early on Sunday and couldn't close the deal - very unusual for him.
Once he's in the lead or tied for the lead, he almost always wins. The Masters, he didn't do it, Zack Johnson won, and now Cabrera won. Interesting, Steve, neither one of them had to play with Tiger Woods on Sunday. I think that helped them, because he's so intimidating to play with.
INSKEEP: John, I don't think it quite comes across when you look at the TV images what in the world it is that they do to a golf course to make it so tough that the world's best players can't even get close to par.
FEINSTEIN: Yeah, the hardest part - I mean, the rough is long. That's obviously part of it, Steve. But at Oakmont in particular, the greens are so fast, and it's hard to describe. When you or I or the average player plays on a green, usually it rolls about eight feet - between eight and 10 feet on this machine called a Stimpmeter that measures the speed of greens. At Oakmont, it was more like 14 or 15, which not only affects your putting, it affects your ability to keep the ball on the green with your approach shots. It's almost impossible.
INSKEEP: You tap this tiny putt very lightly, and it can just roll forever if it misses the hole.
FEINSTEIN: Exactly. It could still be going. You know, you could miss a four-footer by 10, 15 feet very easily.
INSKEEP: So, how does winning a major championship change the life of someone like Angel Cabrera?
FEINSTEIN: Well, he's now going to be an - he'll be a hero at home in Argentina. He's the second Argentine to win a major championship - the first is Roberto DeVicenzo in 1967, and he'll be an international star now. Everywhere he goes, people would want his time. He will become - he will go from a guy making a pretty good living to a very wealthy man.
INSKEEP: Well, he can get some advice from you on all of that, I'm sure.
FEINSTEIN: Oh, yeah. Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: John, thanks talking - thanks. Good talking with you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
INSKEEP: John Feinstein's most recent book is "Tales from Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major." And again, Angel Cabrera is the winner of the United States Open. And he said after winning, the good thing here is that I beat everybody here, not only Tiger Woods.