"Just because I won the U.S. Open doesn't mean I'm going to change the way I live," Angel Cabrera told Sports Illustrated last August in his native Argentina, for a profile co-written by Luis Fernando Llosa. "I'm going to do what I've always done."
What the 38-year-old has always done besides win (19 victories worldwide) is to speak from the heart. Llosa reconnected with the man whose 1-under-par 69 bested Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk at Oakmont last year, making him the second Argentine (after Roberto De Vicenzo) to win a major. In a spirited exchange, the champion talks Torrey Pines, kicking cigarettes, and his lonely life on the PGA Tour.
You smoked a lot of cigarettes at
last year's U.S. Open. You've said,
Some players have psychologists.
I smoke. How has smoking helped?
I get that question over and over. Listen. I quit smoking last summer, after the British, on July 24th. I haven't smoked since. There are a lot of players who smoke and play well. There's nothing wrong with that. Back then I was being tortured with questions about smoking, so I made a comment about smoking and psychologists. But enough already.
Why'd you quit?
Because I didn't feel like smoking anymore. Are you guys are going to torture me for the next year with questions about why I don't smoke? [laughs]
Just one more. Didn't smoking help
you cope with pressure? What do
you do now?
No. No. I smoked because I wanted to and because I was addicted. It was a bad habit, not an aid on the course. Quitting has had no effect on my game.
What annoys you more the oftrepeated
questions about your
smoking, or the oft-repeated
questions about how you got the
nickname El Pato?
Smoking questions. I have never been annoyed by anyone's inquiries about my nickname. Never.
So what do you think about sports
psychologists? Are they necessary?
Definitely. Just look at how many players use them. But the player who starts up with a psychologist ends up not being able to play without the guy standing by to hold his hand.
What about you?
I hope I never need one. I tried talking to a psychologist once. Two minutes in, I said, "Ciao!" Never again. There's no way, no way, I'd continue! I couldn't buy into a single thing the guy was saying.
Even though you're from Argentina,
at last year's Open you seemed to
connect with the U.S. fans, even as
you were beating their favorite player, Tiger. Why do American
fans like you?
I don't know, but I think the public in the U.S. really enjoys watching us play, especially when they see a less well-known player, like me, do well.
What are your long-term goals?
First, to see my sons grow up healthy and happy. In golf, I don't know. I've already done many things I never imagined I'd be able to do. I owe this sport so much that everything that comes my way now is a bonus. I want to win many more tournaments, to win another major, but I don't dream about it. I don't go crazy thinking about it. Winning one is already a dream come true.
Do you dream of winning another
I don't dream about winning another major. I believe that I will.
Since winning at Oakmont, you've
won the Singapore Open and the
Grand Slam of Golf, and you
finished second in the HSBC
World Matchplay Championship.
It seems you've gotten even better
since your Open win.
After winning a major, things changed. I knew I could win before, but sometimes my head got in the way. Once I'd won, I figured, "If I won this I can continue winning." It gave me confidence.
Is there a specific part of your game
you're working on?
The only thing that has changed for me is my mind-set the part that doesn't know whether you can win. Nothing else needs change. For me the swing is always the same. The movements are the same. What matters is knowing you can do big things. Once you know that, you can do them.