Cabrera vaults into lead with big finish
OAKMONT, Pa. -- If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be the U.S. Open midway leader.
Angel Cabrera, nicknamed "Pato" in his native Argentina, which translates as "The Duck," fired a second-round 1-over 71 at Oakmont Country Club on Friday to claim a one-stroke lead entering the weekend.
"I think I have a very good chance," he said through an interpreter. "I'm playing very well."
While Cabrera can credit much of his success to a steady diet of fairways and greens -- he hit nine of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation on Friday -- it was a single shot that propelled him into sole possession of the lead.
The ball rolled to within 2 feet of the cup, leaving Cabrera with a tap-in birdie on a hole that played one-half stroke over par during the day.
"That was my last big shot, so I was definitely concentrating, trying to make the best shot possible," said Cabrera, who is at even-par 140 for the tournament. "Making a birdie at the last hole gives you a good sensation for what is left ahead."
What is left ahead is hardly unknown territory for the 37-year-old from Cordoba. This is no Kenneth Ferrie or Jason Gore overachieving success story, in reference to the little-known players who became overnight sensations by climbing leaderboards in the last two U.S. Opens.
Cabrera is the world's 41st-ranked player. He owns 15 career international victories and six top-10 finishes in 30 major appearances. A victory at Oakmont, however, would be his first on U.S. soil.
And he knows that nothing has been accomplished so far.
"The tournament is starting [Saturday]," said Cabrera, who has never missed the cut in eight career U.S. Open starts. "It's great to finish this way, but we will have to keep concentrating for [Saturday] because that's when the tournament is going to start."
One byproduct of Cabrera's final-hole birdie is that it eliminated 19 players from the tournament, as those at 11-over-par fell one stroke short of the USGA's 10-shot rule, including Phil Mickelson.
Asked about it after the round, Cabrera provided perhaps the most salient remark regarding the ousting of the four-time U.S. Open runner-up.
"I did not knock out Mickelson," he said. "Mickelson knocked out himself."
Cabrera will have bigger and better things on his mind entering Round 3 at Oakmont, as he prepares to play in the final pairing at 3:15 p.m. along with fellow long-hitter Bubba Watson.
"I've never been after 36 holes on top of the leaderboard in a major," Cabrera said, "but we're trying to make the most of it and hopefully have a good weekend."
There's no reason to think he won't. Cabrera has proven to be a world-class player and just may be ready to take the stage as our newest first-time major champion.
After all, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck ...
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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107TH U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Where: Oakmont CC, Oakmont, Pa.
Yardage/Par: 7,230 yards; par 70
2006 champion: Geoff Ogilvy
• Final-round ratings up 36 percent over '06
• Recap: Cabrera survives to win devilish Open
• Harig: Cabrera latest in line of surprise champs
• Forde: Tiger gets passed by on Sunday -- again
• Sobel: Woods will find inspiration from close call
• Photo gallery
• Sobel's fourth-round blog
• Highlights | Woods frustrated
• Cabrera Shot Pack: Front 9 | Back 9
• Woods Shot Pack: Front 9 | Back 9
• Furyk's one regret: Wayward tee shot at 17
• Baddeley's bad day: Shoots 80, falls to 12th
• Recap: Baddeley's birdie binge nets him lead
• Harig: Baddeley ready for his round in spotlight
• Forde: Get ready for Woods, the comeback kid
• Sobel: What each contender needs to do
• Sobel's third-round blog
• Watson's triple bogey costly
• Third-round highlights
• Woods' day | Comments | Front 9 | Back 9
• Recap: Cabrera's late birdie give him lead
• Sobel: Round 2 blog
• Sobel: Cabrera vaults into lead
• Forde: Bubba is the American idol
• Harig: Casey shoots magical 66
• Mickelson, other big names miss the cut
• Lefty misses the cut, Tiger hangs on
• Tiger talks about Round 2
• Podcast: Harig on Round 2
• Recap: Dougherty grabs lead with 68
• Sobel: Round 1 blog
• Forde: Woods and Oakmont fight to a draw
• Harig: Dougherty's spot on top is a major surprise
• Sobel: Mickelson perseveres to shoot 74
• ZOOM Gallery: Day 1 at Oakmont
• Analysis: Highlights | Day 1 report
• Tiger: Front 9 | Back 9 | Reaction
• Forde: Tough love won't be kind to these guys
• Sobel: Ranking the field, 1-156
• Experts' predictions
• Sobel: Top seven without a major
• ListRanker: You rank 'em!
• Alternate Shot: Previewing the Open
• Fact or Fiction: How difficult is Oakmont?
• Sobel: Mickelson trying to go straight and narrow
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• Tale of the Tape: Harmon vs. Haney
• On the Hot Seat: Rory Sabbatini
• Sobel: Toughest major year ever?
• Harig: Did the Johnny Miller Effect really happen?
• Bradley: Oakmont is the Green Monster
• Weekly 18: Questions are lingering