Monday, June 18, 2007

Increíble! El Pato bate el Tigre . . .

On Sunday, June 17, 2007, a duck beat a tiger in a fair fight.

Yes, Angel "El Pato" Cabrera held off Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk to win the 2007 U.S. Open in Oakmont, Pa. The 37-year-old Argentinean captured his first career major. Woods finished runner-up at a major for the second time in 2 months. He again played in the final pairing and again walked off the course empty-handed.

It was a helluva tournament. Phil Mickelson whined and went home early. Paul Casey shot one of the finest rounds in recent U.S. Open memory (a 66 on Friday), but could manage no better than a tie for 10th. Cabrera finished at 5 over par and was the only golfer to record 2 rounds under par. Angel took home the trophy but Oakmont itself came out on top.

I admit, part of me was hoping that someone was standing over a 3 foot putt to shoot a 62 to win on Sunday. That way, I could have seen Johnny Miller run onto the 18th green yelling "Noonan! Noonan!" before getting tackled by security. You see, Mr. Miller shot 63 on Sunday at Oakmont to win the 1973 U.S. Open and now, while commentating on the U.S. Open, can't seem to go 63 seconds without working it into a sentence.

Wait, where was I?

Oh yes, I wish people would take a deep breath and relax before claiming that Tiger Woods is somehow losing his edge.

Let's put this in perspective. In his last 10 majors (dating back to the 2005 Masters), Tiger's won 4 times and finished second (alone or tied) 3 times. He has 8 out of 10 finishes in the top 3 and 9 out of 10 finishes in the top 4.

He's played in the final group on Sunday in the last 4 majors (dating back to the 2006 Open Championship).

Since retooling his swing under coach Hank Haney, Woods is in the hunt each and every time he tees it up. When he's clicking on all cylinders, as he was at the 2005 Open Championship, 2006 Open Championship, and 2006 PGA Championship, he's still head and shoulders above the rest of the field. When he's not playing his best, he no longer shoots himself out of contention, something he did early in his career.

As for the "dubious" fact that he has yet to win a major when not leading after 3 rounds, come on. Most majors are won by the guy who's leading after 3 rounds. That's why the choke label gets applied when the 54-hole leader doesn't close the deal. That's also why final rounds like Nicklaus at Augusta in 1986 and Palmer at Oakmont in 1960 are so well-remembered. Most of the Golden Bear's majors were won when he held onto the lead he'd carved out during the tournament's first 3 rounds.

I'm going to make a bold prediction. Are you sitting down? Tiger Woods will one day win a major when trailing after 3 rounds. You're reading it right here first, folks.

So, congratulations to Angel Cabrera. The Duck came out victorious on a course playing as tough as any you'll ever see. Now it's on to the Open Championship at Carnoustie.


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