In golf, as in all sports, youth is served. As it should be. But when “old” guys or gals rise up righteous-like and win or even impress, there’s some cheering from the press box, to be sure. And the press box had to be noisy yesterday at the Greenbrier Classic.
First, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, 64, shot 69 to finish tied for 35th at 4 under. Watson certainly still has game but not as much length as he needs to content on the PGA Tour. Or maybe he has. Get this: On the par-5 17th, Watson was sitting 271 yards out, and he elected to swing away without fear of offending the group still putting on the green. Ooops! Watson smoked it and surprised himself as his ball rolled onto the dance floor. That deserves a tip of the cap.
And then 44-year-old Angel Cabrera, who has more wins at majors (2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters) than PGA Tour victory, broke a five-year drought on the Tour and became the Tour’s oldest winner this season. He was gutsy with his 330-yard drives, bold with his irons and clutch with his putter to win by two over George McNeil. He earned $1.17 million and improved from 158th to 54th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Unforgettable 4 Iron
Cabrera has been one of my favorites since witnessing his second shot at a par-5 at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine (the course has been changed, but it may have been the 15th). My son, Ben, and I were taking an early morning break, sitting in the rough near the area where players would hit their second shots. Suddenly, a ball rolled between my legs and stopped 20 yards away.
There was rumbling in the crowd that Cabrera had pulled his tee shot, and, sure enough, a few minutes later Cabrera came charging toward us, scowling and huffing. Like most pros, he’s not tall but, like most pros, his torso is powerfully built. He and his caddie spoke in Spanish to establish a yardage (242) and club selection for his second shot (4 iron). Ben and I raised our eyebrows at the club selection.
“Best shot I’ve ever witnessed.”
Cabrera had an opening between trees to a rather small green well protected by bunkers. He politely asked the gallery to stand back, and we realized he was going for the green, not laying up.
Cabrera is not one to dwell on decisions, so he fired away with a wicked whoosh. The sound was as memorable as the sight. The ball appeared to never get above eye level, a low, lethal screamer headed right for the pin.
OK, I thought, he may make the green, but it the ball will never hold coming in that low and that hot. Well, it did, somehow. He missed the eagle putt but pulled a birdie out of a second-shot mess. Best shot I’ve ever witnessed.