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Sunday, April 14, 2013
Cabrera rises to major occasions

By Farrell Evans
ESPN.com

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Adam Scott is a great story. He won Australia's first green jacket and finally got done what his idol Greg Norman famously couldn't do in his Hall of Fame career.

He's a hero in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. He's bigger now than Crocodile Dundee, Nicole Kidman, Mel Brooks, Greg Norman and vegemite combined.

That's all well and good.

Angel Cabrera
Angel Cabrera nearly holed a birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff with Adam Scott on Sunday. Instead, Cabrera's putt barely stayed out of the cup while Scott went on to hole his birdie attempt to claim the Masters and the coveted green jacket.

But Angel Cabrera would have made a great story, too, had he won his second green jacket.

We're talking about a 43-year-old, former dirt-poor caddie from Argentina, whose only PGA Tour wins came here at the 2009 Masters and the 2007 U.S. Open.

We're talking about a man who wouldn't even be on the PGA Tour if it were not for the exemption for winning that Masters.

In 20 events on the PGA Tour in 2012, he made just $283,385. That's walk-around money for Tiger Woods. That's the kind of money the top players make in some of the big no-cut events.

Nothing against the tour's old Fall Series, but Cabrera played three of those events last year. The players expected to contend in this Masters did the FedEx Cup playoffs and ended their season with the Tour Championship. The Fall Series was mostly for guys struggling to keep their cards.

Cabrera certainly broke the mold when God made pro golfers. They aren't supposed to walk like a duck, own homemade swings and win only major championships. If you're going by the book, Scott was entitled to win on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Australian had done everything in the game, but win a major championship. He had a Players Championship win, a World Golf Championship victory and some ugly endings to majors -- everything you need on your résumé to win one of game's biggest prizes.

But if Cabrera was depending on a résumé full of accolades for some self-aggrandizement, he never would have made it out of the barrios of Cordoba, Argentina.

Watching Cabrera in the playoff against Scott, it was easy to see the contrast in their styles.

Scott -- the pretty blonde with the perfect golf swing and matching smile -- and the rich New Zealand caddie with his own stellar resume, is a marketers dream, except for his controversial anchored putter.

Cabrera is a past Masters champion, but he had a mostly self-taught swing that leaned on excellent timing and rhythm. And he had a caddie with little experience in majors, his son Angel Jr.

I had to flip back a couple of years to 2011 to even find when he last had a top 10 in a tournament.

But none of these differences mattered on Sunday. Cabrera had the audacity -- and audacious is a good way to describe him -- to make a tying birdie on the 72nd hole to get into the playoff with Scott, who had already finished at 9-under par.

Cabrera had the audacity to win the 2009 Masters when it seemed as though he wouldn't get through the first playoff hole after hitting his ball behind a tree on No. 18. In 2007, he had the audacity to beat Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk in the U.S. Open at Oakmont after starting the final round 4 shots off the lead.

"I like the challenges, and so these tournaments are very, very important for me," Cabrera said of his record in the majors on Sunday night. "So sometimes they [get the] best out of me.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself, and so I'm going to keep on going."

What's probably next for Cabrera is another engagement with the leaderboard at a major championship. He might not fit the bill of what a major winner is supposed to be, but he continues to show that he's got the right stuff to succeed on this grand stage.