The winner of this week's Latin America Amateur Championship will play at Augusta. Fergus Bisset reflects on the Major careers of two Argentinian greats.
The winner of this week’s Latin America Amateur Championship will earn a start at the 2015 U.S. Masters. He will, together with the runner-up or runners-up, earn a place in Final Stage Qualifying for the Open Championship. They will also be given a place in Sectional Qualifying for the U.S. Open. With those, potentially, life changing prizes in mind, it seems appropriate to take a look at the careers of the two most important South American players in the history of Major golf, Roberto De Vicenzo and Angel Cabrera.
Roberto De Vicenzo – The Argentinian is best known for two Major events. Firstly, for winning The 1967 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, holding off Jack Nicklaus by two strokes; secondly, for signing for the wrong score in the final round of the 1968 Masters. Tommy Aaron had marked De Vicenzo down for a four rather than a birdie three on the closing hole and De Vicenzo signed without checking. The higher score had to stand and, as such, the Argentinian finished one stroke behind Bob Goalby.
But, De Vicenzo was 44 by the time of the 1968 Masters and had already enjoyed a long professional career. In fact, he turned professional in 1938 at the age of just 15. He had a superb record in The Open Championships he travelled to compete in. His first outing came in the 1948 Open at Muirfield where, aged just 25, he finished in a tie for third. He was third on his own the following year at Royal St Georges, just two shots behind Harry Bradshaw and Bobby Locke – the latter won the event in a playoff.
In 1950, De Vicenzo went into the final round at Troon tied for the lead with Bobby Locke and Dai Rees. He went to the turn in 33 and looked destined to win the title. But he dropped four shots between the 10th and 13th holes and, despite a strong finish, he’d dropped too far back. He finished second to Locke, two shots adrift. De Vicenzo was third again in 1956, tied third in 1960 and third in 1964. He was fourth in 1965 and tied third again in 1969.
In total, De Vicenzo won more than 230 professional tournaments around the world, including no fewer than 131 on the Argentine Tour. He was a true trailblazer for South American golf.
Angel Cabrera – Hailing from Cordoba, some 400 miles north and west of Buenos Aires, Cabrera turned professional in 1989, aged just 19. It took him some time to make an international breakthrough, but he earned playing rights for the 1996 European Tour and played his first Major at the 1997 Open Championship.
In 1999 at Carnoustie, Cabrera finished just one shy of making the playoff that featured Justin Leonard, Jean van de Velde and eventual winner Paul Lawrie. The Argentinian had a birdie putt on the final hole to match Lawrie’s clubhouse lead but it lipped out.
In 2001, Cabrera recorded top-10 finishes in both The Masters and The U.S. Open, performances that hinted at the possibility of future success in the two great American Major championships.
That potential was realised in 2007 when Cabrera won the U.S. Open at Oakmont and became only the second South American to win a Major title. In that tournament, Cabrera had led after 36-holes but looked to have played himself out of the championship with a third round of 76. But he dug deep and produced a superb final round of 69 to overhaul those ahead of him (including Tiger Woods.)
Cabrera proved winning a Major was no fluke by claiming the 2009 U.S. Masters. He defeated Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry in a playoff. He found himself in a playoff again at Augusta in 2013 but that time he lost out to Adam Scott.
In total, Cabrera has recorded 10 top-10 finishes in Major Championships. He is an inspiration to a generation of South American golfers and that’s very clear when talking to the young players here this week.
Another Argentinian who has come agonisingly close to Major Championship glory is Andres Romero. In The Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2007, Romero was two shots clear with two holes to play. He had scored an astonishing 10 birdies on the day and looked destined to lift the Claret Jug. But he semi-shanked his second shot on the 17th and racked up a double-bogey. A bogey followed on the home hole and he finished one shot shy of making a playoff with Sergio Garcia and eventual winner Padraig Harrington.