Angel Cabrera bedeviled the Old White TPC with 64-64 on the weekend to post 16-under-par 264 for his first non-major win on TOUR at The Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. He defeated American George McNeill by two shots. American Webb Simpson rounded out the podium a whopping six shots behind the winner.
Angel Cabrera began Sunday two shots behind 54-hole leader Billy Hurley III as he was trying to add to his 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters. Hurley III, sleeping on the 54-hole lead for the first time in his career, expanded his lead to three shots after an opening birdie but that would be the last time he would concern Cabrera. Bogeys on four of his next five holes combined with three birdies in six from Cabrera saw the Argentine pull away from his playing partner. The biggest challenge for Cabrera came from the clubhouse as George McNeill, who began the day T19, rattled off seven birdies and an ace to post 14-under after his sensational 61. Cabrera answered with his own eagle, although not as spectacular, from a field shot on No. 13. He backed that up with consecutive bogeys but stretched his lead back to two shots after a birdie on the par-five 17th.
A 2013-14 season that saw him MC in nine of his first 14 starts, Cabrera has heated up like the weather this summer. His MC at Pinehurst No.2 could have been the straw that broke most gamers backs but the Argentine rebounded with 65-67 to finish T11 at the Travelers and he played the difficult weekend at QLN in even par to rack up T24. This week, he closed 64-64 on the weekend so this tells me he’s a recent fan of TPC layouts!
This week the big hitter bombed his way over and around the trouble to finish fourth in fairways and 11th in distance. He took advantage of his length and accuracy to lead the field in GIR. If that wasn’t enough, his putter was up for the challenge as he rolled in 19 birdies (T3) and two eagles (one from the fairway, to be fair!). He was T3 in putts per GIR and sixth in strokes gained-putting which resulted in only making five bogeys. Those are plenty of reasons why he won comfortably this week!
Gamers always perk up around the majors because of Cabrera’s length and short game. His two major championships, plus runner-up finish to Adam Scott in 2013 kept our attention. Away from the majors has been a noticeably different story. His best non-major finish on TOUR was T3 at Quail Hollow back in 2010. That’s over FOUR years ago for you math majors. Since 2010, he’s hit the top 10 exactly five times in 74 events. That’s hardly a rate of return gamers dream about but is hardly rare for a guy entering his 40s.
Cabrera will turn 45 in September and moving forward I’ll keep a cautious eye on him. I’m never a big fan of guys at that stage of their career because it usually takes a performance like the one listed above to beat all these young studs. It would make sense that a crusty veteran like this would be a decent later-round pick up at Hoylake but I can’t forget this was his first top 10 since the Travelers in 2013. That finish began a three tournament stretch of T13 or better last summer. The final piece of that puzzle last year? T11 at Muirfield.
As the season moves along, Cabrera, with this win, jumped from No. 158 in the FedExCup standings to No. 54. Remember, there usually is a reason why a guy is ranked No. 158 and it’s hardly reputation. His last three weeks have been excellent but I’m not banking on three more like them with just 10 or so events left. He’s worth a flier at Hoylake but I’m not rearranging my season-long team around him.
With his victory, his third on TOUR, Cabrera collects $1,170,000 and 500 FedExCup points.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 23 of 34 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane and Kevin Streelman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama joined Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer now has a play pal as Justin Rose joins the European effort. Cabrera will fly the flag for South America.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 34 events so far in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 17 of 33 leaders have gone on to win as Billy Hurley III will take away some valuable experience from this week as he finished T4.
No player has defended their Greenbrier Classic title as 2013 champion Jonas Blixt opened with 64 but shot 73 on Friday and 71 Sunday to finish T35.
Since the Old White TPC was redone, the winning scores have been 16-under, 13-under and 16-under. #trendnotatrend
After only seven players completing all four rounds in the 60s in 2013, eight players did the deed in 2014.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35) and Justin Rose, 33, add to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Cabrera, 44, makes it a two-some. How many people thought the first guy, let alone the second guy on this list would have contained the names Mickelson, Stricker or Furyk? #Wrongo
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
George McNeill: I understand this is fantasy golf but the game is still played by real people. George McNeill found out after seven birdies, a hole-in-one and no bogeys that his older sister had died. Prayers to George and his family at this impossible time.
Webb Simpson: Chasing McNeill’s 61 was tough enough but Simpson did his best with 63 to move up FORTY spots into third. He only made six bogeys on the week to finish third. In 2011 he fired 65 twice before losing his 54-hole lead. Last year he opened with 64 but sputtered to T41. Now he fires 63 and finishes third. Next year will obviously be 62 and T20. It doesn’t matter what I guess, all that matters is he’s in your lineup in 2015.
Bud Cauley: He tantalized gamers like me with his T11 at the Travelers after his T21 at Colonial. Everyone who hopped on last week at QLN saw him MC. This week, it was back to apathy for the youngster but I learned that he likes TPC courses. His three best finishes of 2014 are TPC Louisiana (T11), TPC River Highlands (T11) and the Old White TPC (T4). He played Sunday with Tom Watson and made a hole-in-one. Who hasn’t done this? His 64 on Sunday shot him up 39 spots for his best TOUR finish since solo third at the Wyndham in 2012. His last top 10 came the following week in 2012 at The Barclays. Next week is the JDC at the TPC Deere Run…
Keegan Bradley: After taking a week off, the FADE portion of the preview column returns to mid-season form as Bradley becomes the third player in four weeks to hit the top 10. His T4 was excellent on multiple levels for gamers as he put all four rounds in the 60s (no BLOW UPS), made 51 pars (steady) and made zero worse-than-bogeys! His irons were sharp and his putter steady enough as he returns to the top five for the second time in four events (U.S. Open, T4). The bad news was the T31 and MC in the other two. Form is temporary, class is permanent…
Brendon Todd: He was my top player this week in my power rankings and he backed it up again this week. His 71 on Thursday might have signaled the end of a great streak but the ‘Dawg hunkered down and bit off rounds of 67-67-66 to finish T4. This is his fifth, top-eight finish in his last six events. Read that again slowly. The other finish was T17 so it’s not like he was slumming! His putter was the club of choice this week as he was 10th in strokes gained-putting (SGP).
Chris Stroud: Back in the wrap-up column for the first time since Puerto Rico in early March, Stroud has been building back up in this direction for the last month. He bounced from MC, MC and T80 with T14 at Colonial and added T18 at the Travelers his last time out. Sounds very Bud Cauley-esque? He’ll be happy but shaking his head as he made two bogeys on his final five holes to drop out of solo third to T4. He only made five bogeys on the week total! He’s now finished T9, T18, MC and T4 in four trips.
Cameron Tringale: In my preview last week I begged: Can’t he just throw gamers a bone already? His last four finishes are T63, T37, T32 and T30. #Trending. He missed a birdie putt on No. 18 that would have tied his best finish, T3, ever on TOUR. Best known as Rickie Fowler’s roommate, he has racked up his second, top five of 2014 to go along with his solo fourth at SHO. He’s now 21 of 26 on the year. He’s the American Brendon de Jonge!
Will Wilcox: It’s fitting at a course where 59 has happened that a player with a 59 to his name hits the top five (T4) this week. Sure, it was on the Web.com Tour but YOU GO DO IT then. With limited starts on TOUR this year, just 12 heading into this week, Wilcox has now played in nine of those 13 weekends. He opened with T8 at Sony and returns this week after putting all four rounds in the 60s. Like Stroud and Tringale, he’ll be disappointed that he could only find 69 (-1) in the final round as the leaderboard ended up being a parking lot outside of the top three. Like the Sony where he played in the final group with Jimmy Walker, this will be chalked up as another learning experience for Wilcox.
Billy Hurley III: Gamers looked pretty smart last week as we all jumped on the former Navy grad just outside Annapolis. Gamers THIS week who decided to ride the wave were also rewarded and disappointed at the same time as he could not hold his 54-hole lead. It’s not easy to win on TOUR. We could make a nice list of players that “should have” or “could have” but Hurley will have plenty of more chances come the rest of this season and next as he has plenty of cash in the bank after this week’s T4. I know, I know, he didn’t win, but plenty of others taken us down this path as well.
Congrats to Hurley III, Stroud, Tringale and McNeill as they take the final four, non-winner exemptions to this year's Open Championship. Wilcox and Cauley, base on OWGR, were left out.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Brendon Todd: See above; scintillating.
Jimmy Walker: Yep, it happens and it especially happens when only three birdies can be found on his card in two rounds. His putter was ice cold but that’s an anomaly, not a trend. He’s not in the field next week at the John Deere Classic (JDC) so I would expect him to acclimate in Scotland at the Scottish Open.
Brendan Steele: With eight birdies and only three bogeys I would have thought he’d be right in the mix come Sunday. Sadly, he had three doubles and a quad so he MDF after 77 on Saturday.
Steve Stricker: This was the biggest surprise/not surprise of the weekend. Stricker began the final day two shots out of second and just four off the lead at eight-under but blew up for 74 of them to finish T36. I’m not surprised because he only has one other top 10 in eight events this season. He’s knocked the rust off for his invitational next week.
Webb Simpson: See above.
Bill Haas: Another week, another top 25. For most players, we applaud such consistency. For most players, we laud that the breakthrough is surely coming. For most players. Bill Haas has bags of talent and is not most players. Hence the frustration. Maybe I’ll put him in the FADE column next time out so he can return to the top 10 and pay off his loyal gamers.
Marc Leishman: When a record 89 guys make the 36-hole cut in a field like this it’s disappointing to see a player like Leishman MC. It was more disappointing because he was my OAD. His MC broke a streak of six weekends, including T11 and T8 in his last two. Sigh.
Chris Kirk: He made only two bogeys and a double in the three rounds he fired in the 60s but it was the seven bogeys and 75 on Saturday that sunk his chances. This was first finish outside of the top 30 in eight events so I’m not concerned.
Ben Martin: Just when gamers decide it’s time to hook up the wagon he goes and misses his first cut in eight events. Coming off T13 and T3 last week, this was a bitter pill to swallow. He’s finished T3 or third three times this year and has backed two of those up with MC. The other, to be fair, was T15. As is the case with most “new” guys, we are always watching and learning.
Patrick Reed: A solid but unspectacular week from Reed who was trying to exorcise his demons from last week at QLN. His top 30 finish was nicely ground out as he struggled to find fairways and hole putts, two of his biggest strengths. He’s been more disappointment than desirable since his declaration but gamers need to pick and choose the right spots.
Kevin Na: He had it to six-under with six holes remaining on Sunday but a double and two bogeys coming home sank his chances of a back-door high finish. His putter didn’t help his cause either but he only made seven bogeys on the week. This was his first start since the U.S. Open where he finished T12.
Bubba Watson: He gave gamers hope as he began the day T12 but after his bogey-bogey start, uphill was the only direction he was trending. He rallied nicely and had an 11-footer for birdie on the last to hit the top 10 but missed. T16.
Chris Stroud: See above.
Brendon de Jonge: Gamers like me love de Jonge on a week birdies are necessary to contend but he only made 11 of them. He was 72nd in strokes gained-putting. There were 74 guys who made the cut for Sunday. #dothemath
David Hearn: Like Watson, he began the day T12 in his first action on TOUR since the FESJC. He bettered Watson by bogeying his first THREE holes and four of his first six to fade away. He’ll be in the mix next week at JDC, write that down!
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the JDC and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.