Looking back on last season and ahead to 2008, I expect to see Argentina's Angel Cabrera build on his U.S. Open victory and tally a few more wins.
I played with Angel in the BMW in Germany a few years ago and got to know him some. He is actually a very well-rounded player, with fifteen or so worldwide wins, and he's got great character as a competitor. He's completely self-coached, which I'd imagine has contributed to his confidence in his golf swing. The way he went around Oakmont was so impressive: You look at his talent and his style of play and it does make sense that he could keep it very together on an extremely tough course.
His power through the ball is one thing you notice, and then his ball flight is ridiculous. It just keeps going up and up and up. At the BMW, we came to a par three that was 212 yards to the pin, and Angel fired one that landed a bit past the hole and rolled off the back. I took a look at his club—a six-iron. So I slid my three-iron back in the bag and said to myself, "Well, maybe I can reach with a four-iron."
Another time, when I played with him in a practice round at Augusta, he asked me for a line over the trees to cut off a dogleg. I stuck my arm out straight like a gull's wing to show him, and he hit right up and over on just that line. After that I was sticking my arm out all day to show him what trees to pound it over.
His shoulders are very strong—he's got that stocky build—but his style is fluid. He has a bit of lag in his takeaway. That's his little move to get things started. You see this a lot in South American players. They're slinky in their movements, very relaxed as they go to hit. They'll be chatting away, and then they give it a slap. That attitude can create wonderful freedom. Angel draws it away like a painter waving his paintbrush.
Ian Connelly, my first teacher, told me that you've always got to have some kind of movement as you're preparing to make your swing. You can't be static. Some people need lots of movement, or it can be as simple as a little squeeze of the grip that starts you off. Nicklaus, Tiger—you don't see much with them, but most likely they do the same tiny thing each time.
Like a lot of little movements in the golf swing, that lag move can be overdone. In Angel's case, I suspect it can throw him off at times. He made one swing when I was playing with him—it was a long, tough shot from a difficult lie on a par five—and there was no lag at all in the takeaway. Everything was in unison. He pulled off a great golf shot. "Angel," I told him afterward, "that's the swing. Bottle that one."
I have a feeling Angel will keep bubbling along just under the surface as he has been—only now in a more high-profile manner. He's not a player you can pick to win on any given week. His stars have to align. But on that week when everything's all lined up, you won't be able to stop him. He'll play his attacking style, and he'll just score all day long.
Angel is a very generous man, as well. Someone told me about a camp that he and Eduardo Romero have up in the villages of central Argentina, where they feed hundreds of kids every day. It's nothing formal or official; they just see to it all themselves. I don't believe it's something you can look up anywhere, because he doesn't want to publicize it. But it's a great thing that they do, feeding all those kids—not a small group of kids, not dozens of kids, but literally hundreds of kids who would otherwise be going hungry.