Angel Cabrera has some much-needed momentum heading to the British Open in his quest for a title in a third different major.
Cabrera snapped a five-year drought on the PGA Tour and became its oldest winner this season, closing with his second straight 6-under 64 at the Greenbrier Classic to beat George McNeill by two strokes Sunday.
The 44-year-old Cabrera made good on his first visit to the historic venue in West Virginia that has put many players at ease with its laid-back environment and mountain views which the Argentine said reminded him of his home club in Cordoba.
“I had been told by my friends that this was a great place, a great golf course,” Cabrera said.
One that gave him his first non-major win on the tour, to go along with the 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters.
“After the 2009 Masters victory, I haven’t been too consistent,” Cabrera said. “But I’ve been working very hard of late to get back to where I think I should be.”
With a combination of 330-yard drives, bold iron play and clutch putts, Cabrera finished with four rounds in the 60s for the first time since the 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship.
“I’ve been confident with my golf swing, and I feel confident mentally,” Cabrera said. Entering the British Open, “I’m just going to go over there and play, and it’s a very important tournament and it’s a different tournament, but I’m going to go play.”
Cabrera, who didn’t even have a top-10 finish previously this season, finished at 16-under 264. He won $1.17 million and improved from 158th to 54th in the FedEx Cup standings.
“I wanted it. I needed to win a tournament,” Cabrera said. “I felt under control today out there, and I didn’t want to let it get away from me.”
McNeill had four consecutive birdies, then a hole-in-one on the 220-yard 8th hole, during his season-best round of 61.
Afterward, he learned that his older sister, Michele McNeill, had died Sunday morning of breast cancer, Golf Channel reported.
“Golf doesn’t really mean a whole lot,” McNeill told reporters. “So it’s hard.”
McNeill was the clubhouse leader at 14 under well ahead of Cabrera, who still had the back nine to play.
Cabrera overtook McNeill with birdie putts of 17 and 7 feet on the 11th and 12th holes, then gave a fist pump after moving to 17 under with the highlight of his round – a 176-yard 8-iron up the hill on the par-4 13th, the hardest hole at Old White TPC, that settled into the cup for eagle.
Webb Simpson, who had flown home on Friday, learned upon landing that he made the cut, then rented a car and drove back to West Virginia, finished third after shooting 63 Sunday.
Third-round leader Billy Hurley III, playing alongside Cabrera, bogeyed four of the first six holes to fall out of contention. He shot 73 and finished in a seven-way tie for fourth at 9 under.
No third-round leader has hung on to win the Greenbrier Classic in its five-year existence.
Joining Hurley at 9 under were Bud Cauley (64), Bradley (66), Brendon Todd (66), Chris Stroud (69), Cameron Tringale (69) and Will Wilcox (69).
The leading four players among the top 12 not already exempt for the British Open earned spots in the July 17-20 tournament at Royal Liverpool. Those spots went to McNeill, Stroud, Tringale and Hurley.
At age 64, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson shot 69 to finish tied for 35th at 4 under. On the par-5 17th, Watson reached the green on his second shot from 271 yards out, surprising even himself because the group ahead was still putting.
In that group was Cauley, whose final shot of the day was a hole-in-one on the par-3 18th. Watson was one of the first to congratulate him. The ace triggered a $100 prize from the tournament to paying customers in the stands.
But Cauley narrowly missed out on a British Open nod, whose qualifying tiebreaker uses the world ranking. Cauley entered the week at No. 295.
Another spot will be handed out next weekend at the John Deere Classic.
Updated July 7, 2014