Friday, 19 March 2010

Angel Cabrera became the first Argentine winner of the US Open Championship when he held off the challenges of World Number One Tiger Woods and another former US Open champion, Jim Furyk, to win his first Major title by a stroke.

Cabrera shot a final round of 69, one of only two rounds under par at Oakmont Country Club, for a five over par total of 285 to become only the fifth European Tour Member to capture the US Open.

Four other European Tour Members enjoyed top ten finishes with Niclas Fasth of Sweden, birdieing the last for a level par 70 and fourth place on 287, Nick Dougherty shooting a 71 to finish in a share of seventh place and Paul Casey and Justin Rose sharing tenth place with Stephen Ames after rounds of 76.

With three holes to play, Cabrera was three strokes clear after a stunning birdie on the 15th but he gave shots back - and handed Woods and Furyk hope of a comeback - with bogeys at the 16th  and 17th holes.

A par at 18th put Cabrera in the clubhouse on five over par as the American duo played the final holes.

Both Woods and Furyk tried to drive the green at the 306 yard 17th but ran into trouble.

Furyk bogeyed the hole from the rough to the left of the green and Woods was unable to get up and down for birdie from a greenside bunker. At the 18th , Furyk split the fairway with his drive but his approach was long and left, leading to a par.

Woods had a 30-foot putt to force a play-off but left it out to the right and about a foot past the hole and Cabrera was left to celebrate.

“This is great moment for me,” said Cabrera, whose previous three European Tour victories include the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event, in 2005. “I can’t believe it. I never thought this was possible. I watched all the Majors on TV when I was a kid and never thought that I would be here at this moment.”

Cabrera doesn’t intend letting the US Open trophy out of his sight. “It’s staying with me, in my bed. I am going to sleep with it,” he said. “It is very difficult to describe this moment and probably tomorrow when I wake up with this trophy beside me in my bed I will realise that I have won the US Open.”

Woods dug himself a hole he could never get out of with a double bogey on the 428 yard, par four third hole. Woods had an uphill pitch shot that he tried to hit into the side of the hill to take some of the speed off, but instead it skipped across the green and into the rough on the other side. He mis-hit the pitch coming back and took two putts to finish the hole.

Woods bounced back with his only birdie of the round on the following hole but never made another on his way to a two-over round of 72.

Furyk shot his second straight 70 to finish tied for second with Woods at a six over 286.

Fasth hit a wonderful approach to the last to set up a finishing birdie to claim fourth place on his own.

“That was the icing on the cake,” said the Swedish Ryder Cup player. “I was trying very hard on the back nine. I was a little far behind but gave it a good go. I am proud of what I did today.”

Dougherty is another player who can be proud of his performance in the 107th US Open after finishing joint seventh with Scott Verplank and Jerry Kelly, a performance that will ensure a return to the US Open next year and an invitation to the Masters.

“It has been a very eventful week,” said the Englishman. “Playing with Tiger was the high. As amazing as it was leading the US Open, which will always be a high point of my career, playing with Tiger has been one of my dreams and to play with him in the third round of the US Open is a good as it gets. This is new for me. I am a good player I think but I am still young and have things to learn. Being in contention for a Major is something I had not experienced and I went in at the deep end leading after round one and I could get used to it.”

Rose contended all week and was right in the frame with nine holes to play but ran out of steam over back nine as he finished with a 76 for an 11 over par total of 291.

“I made a really good par on the ninth and felt that kept me in the tournament and felt great there. Then I three putted the tenth and 11th, I had a sand wedge in my hand coming out of a bad lie and came up short and made bogey. From then on I felt I was just hanging on to be honest. Just felt hard work from then on.”

Casey began with all guns blazing and hit a great approach to the first but his birdie putt jumped wide. On the second he hit a massive drive just through the back but failed to get up and down but the real blow to his chances came at the sixth when he got caught under the lip of the bunker and had to play out backwards. That resulted in a triple bogey and ultimately 43 shots to the turn ended his hopes. Three threes to finish though completed a round of 76 to join Rose on 11 over par.

“It was just a bad day,” said Casey afterwards. “I was very excited about today. I think you could see from the shots I hit on the first four holes or so, I was nervous, but I hit some very good golf shots.

“Then I got a very, very bad break on the sixth hole. I was very much in the golf tournament at that point. To get stuck underneath the lip there. That was not fun and from there momentum was gone. I battled it out and to finish with three threes I am very pleased with that.”

As for Cabrera’s win, Casey was quick to applaud the new US Open Champion. “The European Tour will take great a lot from this win. Our Tour is extremely strong and we have some great players. Cabrera is a European Tour player and he has been around for a long time and thoroughly deserved this.

“He has won big events in Europe. He has won our BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He is a formidable player. Nothing fazes him. He is quiet on the outside, a great ball striker and has great touch. He has everything you need. He is just not a superstar because he doesn’t jump and shout about it but just goes about his business. He is bound to be a superstar after this though.”

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