Monday, June 18, 2007

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

It may be a hard sell to convince the sporting world that golfers are 'real' athletes when, on the toughest course in the toughest tournament, an overweight Angel Cabrera calmed his nerves with nicotine on his way to the U.S. Open championship. As Cabrera said, “There are some players that have psychologists. I smoke.” Tiger Woods' classy, skintight red shirt may have showed off his physique on Sunday, but it didn't help him make any birdies, which is what he really needed.

Cabrera's story is well documented in many places by now: Argentinian, worked as a caddy, never appeared on the Tonight Show. It is a story I like, and one which may remind us that 'taking the field' instead of Tiger may not be a bad choice. Sunday's coverage on NBC was a virtual love-in for Tiger Woods and I forget, did Johnny Miller shoot a 63 on Sunday in the Open? Oh and by the way, some guy named Cabrera (who snubbed a post-round interview) is, um, the winner. Nothing the American media likes more than a major champion who has a tenuous grasp on the English language.

Congratulations to Cabrera. While he stumbled a bit into the clubhouse (bogeys on 16 and 17), he pulled it together enough to par the 18th, not only the toughest hole on the course but one of the most challenging in Open history. Not easy to do with Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods breathing down your neck.

“I watched all the majors on TV when I was a kid,” Cabrera said. “I never thought I would be here at this moment.” He may never win another, but who cares? He has this: $1.26 million, a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, an exemption into the Open for 10 years, and a five-year exemption into the Masters, British Open, P.G.A. Championship and Players Championship. Not bad for a caddy from Argentina.

On a side note, I want to give it up for Whitey who claimed that, "6 over wins this tournament hands down!" On Thursday. One guy beat 6 over. Cabrera. Scanning the leaderboard, only two guys hit under par on Sunday: Cabrera and Anthony Kim; Cabrera was the only player with two rounds under par. Here's the list of players who, if they had played even with Cabrera (or hit even par) on Sunday, would have won or at least been in a playoff:
  1. Tiger Woods
  2. Jim Furyck
  3. Bubba Watson
  4. Justin Rose
  5. Stephen Ames
  6. Paul Casey
  7. Aaron Baddeley

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