Nine months ago, Angel Cabrera brought his home town to a standstill as a victory parade swept through the streets in celebration of his US Open Championship triumph, and Cordoba’s favourite son can expect another hero’s welcome when he tees up in this week’s Abierto del Centro at Cordoba Golf Club on the European Challenge Tour.
Cabrera’s US Open victory at Oakmont last June, the first Major Championship success by an Argentine golfer since Roberto de Vicenzo’s win in The Open 40 years earlier, was the highlight of a stunning year for Argentine golf which also saw Ariel Canete, Andres Romero and Daniel Vancsik step onto the winner’s podium on The European Tour.
Two days after the US Open, hundreds of people lined the streets in Cordoba as a motorcade took the new national hero from the airport to his home, with Cabrera, draped in the Argentine flag, holding the US Open trophy aloft through the sunroof of the station wagon. The Governor of Cordoba was among those who welcomed his arrival, along with representatives of the President of Argentina.
Now Cabrera has returned with his sights set on a new record closer to home, as he looks to win the Abierto del Centro title for the fourth successive year, and so equal the all-time record of eight victories held by compatriot Martin Pose. Cabrera’s seventh win last year put him level with the other of Cordoba’s favourite golfing sons, Eduardo Romero.
It is the third time this season Cabrera has competed in an event jointly sanctioned by the Challenge Tour and the Tour de las Americas (TLA), as he also played in the two events in Argentina at the end of last year, narrowly missing out to Paraguay’s Marco Ruiz in the 102 Abierto VISA de la Republica presentado por Peugeot in December after an uncharacteristic slip.
With an obvious fondness for the event at his home club, Cabrera is clearly the hot favourite. But as Ruiz and Argentina’s Miguel Rodriguez have already shown this season, he does not always have it his own way on his home patch.
Ruiz – the godson of one of Argentina’s most celebrated golfers, four time European Tour champion Vicente Fernandez – is currently second on the Challenge Tour Rankings following his win in Buenos Aires; while Rodriguez lies fourth having won the opening event of the 20th anniversary season on the Challenge Tour, the Abierto del Litoral Personal at Rosario GC – a victory which also helped him finish Number One on the TLA Order of Merit.
Both players will be up for the challenge of testing themselves against the World Number 17, as will everyone in the field as they look to make early gains on the Challenge Tour Rankings.
The $200,000 Abierto del Centro, being played for the 77th time, is the fourth event of the 2008 Challenge Tour season and the third of five events jointly sanctioned with the Tour de las Americas.