But the U.S. Open has made it clear that Cabrera's legacy will be defined by more than his collection of trophies. "To win the Open was very special, very big, very important for Argentina and the people and for golf in my country," says Jose Coceres, another Argentine caddie turned successful touring pro. "Futbol fans, people on the street, they watched and cheered. For some it was the first time they ever watched golf."
Cabrera is eager to use this capital to increase the meager number of golfers in his country. So far he has concentrated his efforts at the grassroots level around Cordoba. He has been lobbying the provincial government to provide seed money and scholarships for young golfers, and Cabrera has begun personally sponsoring a group of youths, backing that includes giving them access to his driving range. (One promising player is allowed unlimited practice balls for free in exchange for working as an instructor to other kids.)
Cabrera takes an obvious pride in giving back to the game that has given him so much. He came to golf making 25 pesos a day and can scarcely believe that over the four FedEx Cup tournaments he will be playing for $35 million. As much as Cabrera has prospered from the make-believe world of the PGA Tour, that's not who he is. The real Pato is still found on Friday nights in Villa Allende.
When we leave him at Almacen y Bar Condor, he is merrily eating and drinking with his amigos, and the party continues until 1 a.m., when Cabrera finally departs. His night isn't over yet. A few hours later he is banging on the door of a house belonging to a longtime friend, Juan Domingo Monjes. Inexorably, Cabrera has wound up in his old barrio. Three blocks away is the shabby little house he grew up in with his grandmother, and just up the hill beyond that the Cordoba Country Club. Why here, why now? Cabrera has just spent a long day and night talking about himself and his life. Maybe he needs to connect with his past in a visceral way. Then again, maybe he is just drunk and has the munchies. When he awakens Monjes, he informs him that they are going to have an asado. Right now.
In his own home, a hilltop mansion built three years ago, Cabrera has an expansive wine cellar and a four-by-ninefoot indoor brick grill on which he cooks only the best cuts of meat from a local rancher who feeds his animals special grains. Under the stars with Monjes, he is not nearly as picky. They don't have a grill, so Cabrera digs one out of the dirt, using rocks and anything else he can scavenge in the yard to construct his parilla de asado.
Later that morning Monjes recounts his tale, sounding as if he can't quite believe it really happened. Cabrera is nowhere to be seen, but the embers he left behind are still smoldering.