Angel resists any line of questioning about his kin. "Let's not talk about that," he says, and he doesn't. It is not only reporters whom he shuts out. Bartolome traveled the South American tour with Cabrera for seven years and now regularly hangs out with him in Villa Allende, but he says of Cabrera's family situation, "It is a big mystery. It's one part of his life he keeps very, very private. Nobody knows."
Yet it is not hard to see how his fractured family has affected Cabrera. When he was a caddie at Cordoba Country Club he gravitated toward various father figures, including Molina, who gave him his first set of clubs when he was 16, and Manuel Tagle Sr., the patrician club president and an early financial backer, whose son Manuel Jr. now serves as Cabrera's agent. And for a boy who never really knew his mother, it is probably not a surprise that Cabrera fell for an older woman. (Together for more than 20 years, Angel and Silvia have never formally married.)
In 1999 Cabrera left the comfortable familiarity of the South American tour, on which he was the dominant player, to test himself in Europe. Thousands of miles from Villa Allende, he needed to create a sense of place, so he has become the patriarch in a sprawling pack of Argentine players and caddies. One of Cabrera's current proteges is Andres Romero, the engaging 26-year-old who nearly stole last month's British Open. Says Romero, "We travel together, we stay in houses together, we eat together, we play together. It is like family."
They don't cotton to outsiders, either. Cabrera loves to tell of an Irish caddie who tried to crash one of the Argentines' Fernet binges. Cabrera shooed him away with instructions to go swill some Guinness, but the caddie was insistent, so an irritated Pato poured him a particularly potent drink that was light on the Coke. Says Cabrera, "We told this guy he had to drink it in two big gulps, so he did. A little while later he had his hands in his pockets and fell face forward onto the ground." Needless to say, the caddie never returned.