2005: Focused Cabrera drives one home

Virginia water, England

Argentina’s Angel Cabrera has been all about potential since he was 15 years old, when veteran countryman Eduardo Romero was his biggest booster.

Cabrera, now 35, went a long way toward living up to that potential May 29 by capturing the BMW Championship, one of the PGA European Tour’s premier events.

“It’s really the very best moment in my life winning the second-best tournament in Europe after the British Open,” Cabrera said. “I played great golf the last two rounds and kept my concentration and was able to manage the pressure.”

Cabrera shot 67 Sunday to finish at 15-under-par 273, two shots better than Ireland’s Paul McGinley. Cabrera earned 666,660 euros (approximately $835,000).

McGinley also shot a closing 67, but bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 cost him dearly. Nick O’Hern finished third at 11 under, and David Howell (9 under) was fourth.

The 16th hole at Wentworth’s West Course, the second-shortest par 4 at 385 yards, was pivotal in deciding the champion. McGinley found two bunkers, made bogey and dropped out of a tie for the lead with Cabrera. The Irishman then drove into the trees on the par-5 17th, had to pitch out to the fairway, missed the green and failed to get up and down.

Cabrera, playing in the group behind, made a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 16.

It was Cabrera’s third European Tour title following victories in the 2001 Argentina Open and the 2002 Benson & Hedges International Open. He was runner-up in this tournament last year and in 2001, and his length off the tee always is an advantage here.

The affable Argentine is one of golf’s rags-to-riches stories. He was a 15-year-old caddie at Cordoba Golf Club when Romero discovered him. His elder countryman encouraged him and then sponsored him during his first years as a professional. Cabrera is following Romero’s footsteps by setting up his own venture to help young Argentineans find their feet in professional golf.

McGinley was desperate to win this title to finally move into Europe’s elite. He has played on two victorious Ryder Cup teams and won three tournaments, but has yet to win the sort of title that will elevate him up the European ladder.

The former Walker Cup player won the 1996 Hohe Brucke Open, the 1997 Oki Pro-Am and the 2001 Wales Open. The first two events no longer exist, and he won the latter in a playoff with Darren Lee and Paul Lawrie after it was reduced to 36 holes.

Winning the BMW Championship would have raised his standing.

“I was just not good enough at the end of the day,” McGinley said. “It’s disappointing not to have won. It’s a big title and would have been a great win for me.”

McGinley’s runner-up finish did offer consolation. He moved into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking to earn an automatic invitation to the U.S. Open.

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