Cabrera's Power Move
Copy Angel Cabrera's full release to pound drives and split fairways
By Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs with David DeNunzio
The old saying "you don't win the Open, it wins you" didn't hold true for Angel Cabrera. The burly Argentine was the aggressor in this battle, pounding huge drives under extreme pressure. His 311-yard average off the tee at Oakmont is the kind of stat you can't fully get your head around, like Bill Gate's net worth or the population of China. His tee shot on No. 9 (his 18th) in the second round set up a birdie and ended Phil Mickelson's made-cut streak in majors at 30, and his bomb on the 72nd hole led to a tap-in par and meant Tiger Woods would have to birdie one of the toughest holes in U.S. Open history just to force a playoff. Two swings that KO'd the two best players in the world.
Like former Open winners at Oakmontincluding Ben Hogan in 1953, Jack Nicklaus in 1962 and Larry Nelson in 1983Cabrera plays a fully released, left-to-right power fade. This high, softer-landing shot was Cabrera's key to mastering the undulating fairways and rock-hard greens of Oakmont. Here's how you can do it wherever you play.
2 of 6Harry How/Getty Images
A cup of Hogan, please
Cabrera's link to former Oakmont champions takes shape in his left wrist. Notice the slight bend between the back of his left hand and his left forearm. This very Hogan-esque wrist cup keeps his clubface slightly open as he approaches impact, allowing him to release powerfully through impact without fear of hooking the ball left. While most amateurs are able to hit a fade, they don't have the power to back it up. If you want to swing with more power, you need to make sure your support system is in place. Keep both of your knees flexed and your weight in the front of your shoes on your downswing to accommodate extra acceleration.
3 of 6Al Tielmans/Sports Illustrated
A big right-hand slap
Cabrera lets it go at full tilt without fear at the bottom of his swing. If he held on even the slightest bit he'd hit a mild flare to the right. A good feeling to have here is that you're trying to "slap" the club into the ball with your right side. Check out Angel's hips-they've cleared way out to the left, making room for his arms and hands to extend through contact and give the ball a powerful slap.
4 of 6Al Tielmans/Sports Illustrated
The law of the long arm
The result of Angel's free release is evident well past impact. His right hand is on top of his left and his right arm is fully extended. When you try it, you should feel like your clubhead is pulling your right arm out of its socket. The straight line between the clubshaft and his right arm is a move every recreational player should copy.
While the rest of the leaderboard caved in to pressure on Sunday, Cabrera continued to swing aggressively like this and play his fade. He remained confident in what he was trying to achieve, rather than fearful of what may go wrong. Place trust in your ball flight like Angel did and you'll never go wrong.
5 of 6Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Finish in a Full Nelson
Despite his husky build, Angel finishes his swing like a young, flat-bellied kid. The confidence in his slight fade allows, and even requires, a full release of both body and club during impact. Notice how Cabrera points his right shoulder at the target in his follow-through, with his hands behind his head and with most of his weight on his front foot. This move is similar to one Larry Nelson made throughout his career and at Oakmont in 1983. Angel swings as hard as his balance allows. Copy his lead and make the fastest swing you can that still enables you to remain balanced and athletic.
6 of 6Justin Lane/EPA
Aping a Bear
What goes through the mind of a player who's trying to bag his first victory, his first major and the first noteworthy championship for his country in 40 years with Tiger lurking a few holes behind? Only Angel knows, because he didn't show it, even when the pressure went through the roof. Like Jack Nicklaus in 1962, Cabrera blocked out all the distractions, stayed relaxed and played as if he were a kid with nothing to lose. Coincidentally, Cabrera captured his first PGA Tour win in the Open at Oakmont, just like the Golden Bear did 35 years earlier.
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