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Grand Opening
ALAN SHIPNUCK
June 25, 2007
Unheralded Angel Cabrera won the U.S. Open with a rock-solid final round, but only after Tiger Woods made some puzzling miscues and let a second straight major slip away
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June 25, 2007

Grand Opening

Unheralded Angel Cabrera won the U.S. Open with a rock-solid final round, but only after Tiger Woods made some puzzling miscues and let a second straight major slip away

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On Saturday night Woods's swing coach, Hank Haney, was asked where the third round ranked in the pantheon of Woods's ball-striking performances since the two began working together in 2003. "The best," said Haney. "On the hardest course in the world, when he absolutely had to have it? It's the best. It has to be."

Yet there was also the sense that Woods had missed an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the tournament, as he repeatedly burned the edges of the cup en route to taking 35 putts. "That was as good as golf can be played," Dougherty, Woods's playing partner, said, "but if he had putted even halfway decent, there would be a lot of daylight between Tiger and everybody else. Sixty-nine was absolutely the worst score he could have shot."

The same would be said of Cabrera's final round. Though he looked jittery for a hole or two down the stretch, he showed serious cojones on the 72nd tee, ripping the drive of his life, a rocket of some 350 yards right down the middle. After tidying up with a deft two-putt Cabrera retired to the stifling locker room to await his fate. ( Oakmont members consider air conditioning to be for weenies.) He called his wife and two sons back in Argentina and madly scrolled through a series of congratulatory text messages.

As he paced among the lockers, Cabrera was making a concerted effort not to look at the many TVs in the room. Nervous? "What do you think?" he said in English, though throughout the week he had relied on an interpreter for his interviews. ("He speaks English better than he lets on," says Campbell, "and I wish he'd always speak it so fans could get to know him. But he's not very confident with it in public settings.")

Cabrera finally settled in front of a TV to see what Woods was made of, just as Johnson had at the Masters. The stony silence was broken only when PGA Tour veteran Jerry Kelly barged in to give Cabrera an exuberant high five. "I love the guy," Kelly said. "We like to give each other forearm shivers every now and then. For fun."

Back on the TV, Woods missed one final birdie putt, and just like that Cabrera had won the 107th U.S. Open. Those close to Woods believe that his recent disappointments are an aberration, not the beginning of something larger. "He'll figure out whatever it is that's going on, and he'll come back stronger from this--hungrier and more motivated," says Stuart Appleby, a friend and neighbor.

Whether Cabrera can build on his unexpected triumph is an intriguing question, but on Sunday he was content to bask in the moment. After sharing an ecstatic hug with Tagle and his caddie, Eddie Gardino, Cabrera was hustled out of the clubhouse for the trophy ceremony on the 18th green. (The former Cordoba caddie also took possession of a $1.26 million winner's check.) Cabrera was led across an elevated footbridge. Before descending the steps to the green, he stopped to take in the sweeping view of this famous course. The grandstands surrounding the 18th green were still packed, and the crowd erupted at the sight of the man who had vanquished Tiger. With a huge grin Cabrera took off his hat and waved it in the air. For a minute he looked a little like Eva Per´┐Żn on the balcony of the Casa Rosada, but Cabrera didn't make any speeches. He didn't have to. The revolution had already been televised.

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