Cabrera stood on his last hole of the day, the par-4 ninth, sharing the lead with Bubba Watson, who was in the clubhouse, at 1-over.
This hole had implications for many more than just Cabrera. Anyone within 10 shots of the lead makes the cut and stays for the weekend at the U.S. Open and a shot at a paycheck.
Given the difficulty of the ninth, it was all but penciled in he would either par or do worse. There had been eight birdies all day, and no one was shooting for the flag tucked left behind a trap.
With shot as unexpected as the fact that Cabrera was still standing above everyone else after two rounds, he stuck his approach tight for a shocking tap-in birdie.
By doing so, it meant a group of 19 players, all at 11 over par, wouldn't see the weekend or any purse money. Among them was Phil Mickelson.
"Mucho lo siento," Cabrera said afterwards. "I'm very sorry."
He should apologize. I had a complete article on Phil Mickelson entering the weekend that will never see daylight. I wasn't alone. As his approach came to a stop about three feet above the ninth hole, many others who jumped the gun in the U.S. Open's media center were scrambling for rewrites.
It was that forgone a conclusion Mickelson and the gang would be in the tournament and the big story would be Lefty continuing to do damage to his wrist and how big the weekend field is.
"I did not knock out Mickelson," Cabrera said. "Mickelson knocked himself out. I don't feel I have to say anything to him."
Of course, the 62 players at 10-under or better owe Cabrera a "muchas gracias." Thanks to him, the $7 million tournament purse will be split 19 fewer ways - and the Mickelson sideshow that has consumed the Oakmont Country Club will move on.
Before the afternoon players teed off, Mickelson had a feeling his tournament and streak of 30 major cuts made was over.
"Eleven-over making the cut?" he was asked. "That would be pretty unbelievable. I can't buy that. I don't think so."
Mickelson said he would be watching the "carnage" on TV this afternoon. Would he be rooting for it?
"I don't need to root for it, it's going to happen."
He couldn't have been prepared to witness Cabrera's gutsy attack at the pin. Now, he can take the weekend off along with a few extra weeks to let the wrist heal properly.
So, in the final group Saturday, we have U.S. golf fan favorite Bubba Watson. He's better known for his long drives, but his creativity and course management has surprised everyone thus far.
Then there is Cabrera, who still uses a translator for interviews but is no stranger to faring well in big tournaments. He finished fourth in the British Open in 1999 and held a lead at the Masters in 2001.
He's also fared well in strong fields at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and has 14 international victories to his credit.
So don't think Cabrera is happy simply sending 19 players home early. He could end up spoiling the kids like Watson, Aaron Baddeley, Justin Rose and Paul Casey from their first major.
"Seventy-two-pars wins this golf tournament," said two-time Open winner Tiger Woods.
Cabrera is the only one on pace halfway home.
June 16, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
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