AUGUSTA -- Angel Cabrera arrived at Augusta National Golf Club last year as the defending Masters champion, and he admittedly was distracted.
But the 2009 Masters champion seems to have regained his focus.
Cabrera, who finished tied for 18th last year, came alive Saturday with a 5-under-par 67 after rounds of 71-70. He is tied for second entering the final round as he chases his third major title (he also won the 2007 U.S. Open).
“Yes, I was distracted last year,” Cabrera said. “Obviously people want to be near me, and they recognize me. But not like last year.
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“I think the confidence was the key (Saturday). The first two days I was hitting it OK, but I lacked that confidence, and (Saturday), I had it, and I trusted it, and that made a big difference.”
Cabrera came out with plenty of confidence early in Saturday’s round, and that showed with a birdie on the second hold with a nice up-and-down from a greenside bunker. He added birdies on the seventh and ninth holes for a 3-under 33 on the front nine.
After a bogey on the 10th hole, Cabrera had a short putt for birdie on the 12th, and he added two-putt birdies on the par-5 13th and 15th.
He is four shots behind Rory McIlroy entering Sunday’s final round.
“You’ve got to start your round and start playing and see how things are,” Cabrera said of his game plan for Sunday. “But once you are on 10, that’s when you know the tournament starts. That’s when you know you have to be aggressive.”
Cabrera didn’t really think he’d be in this position after the early part of the week or his first two rounds. He had five birdies and four bogeys in the first round and followed that up with four birdies and two bogeys in the second round.
“Sincerely, no, especially since I didn’t have that confidence,” Cabrera said when asked if he thought he’d be in the hunt. “But now that I see that I’m playing well, I sure think I can do it.”
That confidence comes from a long break from the game that carried over into the first of this year.
Cabrera said he took off from August to January to get away from golf. And he told CBS announcer Nick Faldo that his game wasn’t in really good shape entering the week.
“My swing wasn’t the same, but I’ve been working on it and just kept plugging,” Cabrera said. “I’m not working on changing anything. I’m just practicing a lot. I didn’t play for about four months, so I’m just getting my groove. I’m just practicing a lot.”
That has paid off this week. Cabrera is the only major championship winner in the top eight entering Sunday’s final round.
He is tied with Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi and Jason Day for second.
“The young kids are playing very well,” Cabrera said. “I think they it deserve it, Rory and Jason. But obviously I have won the Masters, so that should help me a lot.”