AUGUSTA — Angel Cabrera took his son Angel Jr. on a quick detour in the woods in his first official practice round back at Augusta National Golf Club.
The Argentine walked with his son, who will also serve as his caddie this week, to the spot on No. 18 where he stood a little more than a year ago, when he contemplated one of the most important shots in his career on the first sudden death playoff hole of the 2009 Masters. The result didn’t go as planned, but a fortuitous bounce off a tree allowed him to save par on the hole. Cabrera then won the tournament over Kenny Perry on the next playoff hole.
“Honestly, I’m the one who wanted to go see that shot, but he was a perfect excuse,” Cabrera said Tuesday.
Angel Jr., who was in Argentina watching on television during last year’s final round, looked at the same opening his father peered at last year far too the right of the fairway trying to see where he aimed his approach shot.
“He said, ‘No you’re crazy, there’s nothing there to shoot at,’ ” Cabrera said.
The son was right, but Cabrera’s lucky bounce allowed him to save par and win his second major championship following the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Cabrera will attempt to defend his title when the Masters begins Thursday.
“I have the possibility (of defending the title),” Cabrera said. “Maybe I haven’t had the great results lately, but I do feel the chance is out there, and I feel confident about it.”
Cabrera attempted to send his ball through a narrow opening to get close enough to the green to save par. He didn’t find that opening, instead finding a tree that skirted the ball left back onto the fairway. Cabrera stuck his third shot within 6 feet of the hole and made the par putt to force a second sudden death hole with Perry. Mishaps by Perry allowed Cabrera to win the first major of the season with a par on the playoff hole.
As a returning champion, life is a little different this time for Cabrera. His green jacket was waiting for him when he returned to the grounds. He picked the menu for Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. He also has greater expectations placed on him than in any of his 10 previous visits to Augusta National.
“Yes, I won a Masters, but you’ve still got to get up to the first tee and realize you are playing the Masters, how important it is,” Cabrera said. “So it’s still difficult, but obviously it helps that I’ve won before.”
Cabrera hasn’t played exceptionally well heading into the Masters. He finished tied for 73rd last week at the Houston Open. He has just one top-10 finish in seven events this year — a tie for 10th in the season-opening event at Kapalua, Hawaii.
But heading into last year’s Masters, Cabrera had missed the cut in three of his six tournaments, including the Houston Open the week before his win in Augusta.
“I came last year not having very good results at the beginning of the year, very similar game (to the way he’s playing right now),” Cabrera said.
Cabrera could join an impressive group of current three-time major winners with a second consecutive Masters championship.
Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington have all won three majors. In his career, Cabrera has eight top-10 finishes in majors.
“I think it would be a great honor to be on that list, especially now I think it’s going to be harder for players to get to that list,” Cabrera said.
Only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo have won consecutive Masters titles.
Cabrera didn’t fare so well the last time he attempted to defend a major championship. Following his win at Oakmont, Cabrera missed the cut at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.