They call you El Pato [the duck, in Spanish]. Why?
I’ve had that since I was a kid. They called my father “Pato” and then they started calling me “Pato.”
But why the duck?
I have no idea. In Cordoba, everybody has a nickname. Eduardo Romero is “El Gato” [the cat]. Everybody has a nickname, sometimes it means nothing.
Are you anxious about playing week-to-week on the PGA Tour? [Cabrera earned his Tour card by placing among the top 125 on the money list in 2006.]
Not really. For me it’s a challenge, nothing more. The Americans are the best players in the world, and America has the best courses. It’s just a challenge, something I need to do. You are not a real world player until you play in America and prove yourself there.
You’re playing very well again after a few rough years. What’s changed? Are you feeling better physically, or is it just the cyclical nature of the game?
I believe it’s a mix of many things. If you’re playing poorly one week, then again the week after, and the week after that, it’s hard to turn yourself around. There aren’t many players who become great and stay great week after week. Everyone goes through a rough patch. There are many examples: Ernie Els, how long has it been since he’s won a tournament? David Duval, he just disappeared! We all have our great moments and our bad moments. If you castigate yourself, if you worry too much about the bad times, it will finish you.
Do you relate better to the players of old, who liked a few cocktails after a round and had never heard of the fitness trailer?
Yes, I do. And I’ve never frequented the gym. I haven’t changed anything. For me, I’ve always stayed the same, never changed because of what other people are doing. I’ve never been to a gym, not once in my life, if you can believe it. [Laughs.]
Moving on to Augusta. You have four top-15 finishes at the Masters in the last seven yearsÃ¢â‚¬”and three missed cuts. You seem to either burn up Augusta National or fold like origami. Why?
Augusta is a golf course that either motivates you or does the opposite. When I’m playing well at Augusta, I play really well. When I play poorly, I play very poorly. Ciao! Everything is over. I either want to be number one or nothing. I’m not interested in being number 40 at the Masters.
You’ve been in contention at a few majors, but never got comfortable enough to pull off a victory, even when you were playing well. Why haven’t you been able to close?
I don’t think it’s easy to win a major just when you want to win a major. It’s not like you can just say, “I’m going to win a major today” and then win it. You win a major when your moment arrives. I think the only person right now who can say he’ll win and win is Tiger Woods. The rest of us need to wait.
If you’re going to win one of the majors, which of them do you think gives you the best chance?
The British Open.
Because everybody has the same chance there. We all have the same chance.
Because on links courses, if you make mistakes, it’s okay, everyone makes mistakes. And they’re usually the same types of mistakes, on the same holes. You can recover more easily than you can at Augusta because everyone’s recovering from the same thing.
What were the biggest obstacles in Argentina to having a career as a pro golfer?
There were manyÃ¢â‚¬”the biggest was economic. To play in tournaments, even just in Argentina, you had to travel to Buenos Aires. And I had to go from Cordoba to Buenos Aires [about 400 miles], and you needed money to make that trip. So I borrowed money for everything.
And your swing?
I learned it by myself on a golf course. A pro didn’t teach me, a machine didn’t teach me, nobody taught me.
Was Roberto De Vicenzo your idol?
He was a good player, but he’s not my idol. My idol, my hero, was and is Severiano Ballesteros.
What did your parents want you to be, if not a golfer?
No, see, my parents didn’t have many plans for me. Economically, it was rough. We were poor, there was no money for school, so there was really nothing for me to do. Not much hope for any kind of a future.
How far did you go in school?
I went to elementary school, nothing more.
You could never have turned pro without the financial assistance of fellow countryman Eduardo Romero. How much do you owe that guy today?
Romero helped me get to Europe so I could turn pro, yes. But he didn’t gift me anything. I paid him back and then some (and then some more), so I am grateful for his help then, but I’ve given it back tenfold. And yes, it would have been very difficult to do it without his help.
You’ve led the European Tour in driving distance. What’s the one thing people need to know to hit the ball farther?
I think the drive is the hardest thing in golf. When somebody loses confidence in their drive, they’re dead. Dead. What can I tell your readers? You have to practice, and practice and practice, and do it with self-confidence. When I get to that tee box, I believe in myself so much and I have so much confidence in my drives, and I know that I’ll hit more fairways with my driver than with my 2-iron or 3-wood. My confidence is very, very high with my driver.
Describe your ideal day on your farm.
A day where the weather is perfect, 70 degrees, cooking on the grill, watching my kids ride the horses, my wife beside me, and most importantly, being very, very far from a golf course. I rest, I never touch the clubs.
So you never play golf for fun?
* INTERVIEW TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH.