J. Brady McCollough
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Cabrera captures Masters in playoff



The Kansas City Star


AUGUSTA, Ga. | During the last 45 years, the Butler Cabin has been host to some pretty good parties. Certainly, Angel Cabrera's is off to a promising start.


A half-hour has passed since Cabrera won the Masters in a two-hole playoff Sunday night against Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell, and Cabrera's family, friends and countrymen are pouring into the main room. Waiting for their beloved "Pato," which means duck in Spanish, they clink their drinks and feast on fine cheeses. An old white man in a green jacket stares down from a portrait on the wall as an Argentine man in a green jacket fields questions on a flat-screen TV.


"It's really nice for Argentina, this moment," said Ricardo Sargiotto, a longtime friend of Cabrera's.


Butler Cabin has seen a lot of happiness. Built just off the putting green in 1964, this is the place where the moment sinks in, where men who've just achieved greatness realize for the first time "I just won the Masters." It's a pretty good bet that none of those men have had a journey quite like Angel Cabrera's.


"The first love he had was caddie," Sargiotto said.


Sargiotto met Cabrera 25 years ago at the Cordoba Country Club, where Cabrera was caddieing for Sargiotto's father. Cabrera started caddieing when he was 10, and eventually dropped out of school. Living with his grandmother, who was poor like most of Cordoba, it was a hand-to-mouth existence. Cabrera did not caddie because he loved golf.


"To live," Sargiotto said. "Maybe to survive, in Argentina. You a good caddie, you may survive."


Cabrera's round on Sunday was a tale of survival, and fittingly, he would need his caddie for assurance along the way. During the first playoff hole at 18 with Perry and Campbell - they joined Cabrera at 12 under for the tournament - Cabrera drove the ball way right into the woods. Cabrera's second shot ricocheted off a tree. He had no idea where it went.


"We're fine," said his caddie, Ruben Yorio. "It's in the fairway."


Cabrera still looked done. But Perry and Campbell both hit their approach shots to the right of the green. With a clutch approach from 114 yards out, Cabrera would be OK. Sure enough, he grabbed his sand wedge from Yorio and placed it perfectly within 8 feet. Perry would par, leaving Cabrera with a putt to stay alive.


"Any player who says he does not feel nerves," Cabrera said through a translator, "he's not human."


Cabrera made the putt and punched his fist into the air. He walked toward Perry, who was clapping for Cabrera, and their hands met for a high five. Campbell would miss a short putt, so Cabrera and Perry would head to No. 10.


It was odd, but in this duel, Cabrera's wasn't the feel-good story. Perry, 48, was trying to become the oldest man to win a major. He had middle-aged men all over Augusta thinking that, hey, maybe the best years are still ahead. Cabrera had already won a major - the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont - and Kenny Perry had not. In fact, Perry had already lost once in a major playoff, to Mark Brooks in the 1996 PGA Championship.


After a birdie at the 16th hole, this was Perry's Masters to lose. Perry was 14 under, and he hadn't bogeyed a hole all day. He led Cabrera and Campbell by 2 shots. But, while Cabrera was able to bear down and grind out pars on the last two holes, Perry went bogey-bogey. He missed his par putt at 18 by inches.


Still, at the second hole of the playoff, it was anybody's game. But Perry's second shot flew wide left - his ball had mud on the right side, which was bad luck - and all Cabrera had to do was 2-putt to win the Masters. He did, of course.


"I'm not going to feel sorry," Perry said. "If this is the worst thing that happens to me, I can live with it. Great players get it done, and Angel got it done. This is his second major he won. I've blown two, but that's the only two I've had chances of winning."


Back at the Butler Cabin, there was a feeling that Cabrera, 39, was just getting started.


"We are looking for more Masters," Sargiotto said. "More Masters."


Cabrera would be just fine with that.


"A lot of magical things happen," Cabrera said. "It's simply the Masters."

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