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Cabrera calls on his experience

Sunday, April 10, 2011

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Augusta National tends to shake the cobwebs off its champions, yet even Angel Cabrera didn't think he'd be one to rise to the top.

2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera waves to the patrons as he heads to the 18th green. (Jackie Ricciardi/Staff)

"Sincerely, no, especially that I didn't have that confidence," he said of his 5-under 67 on Saturday that shot him from a tie for 18th into today's final pairing. "But now that I see that I'm playing well, I sure think I can do it."

The 2009 Masters winner barely made the cut in his title defense last year and has had a series of health issues since last summer. With his length and comfort around Augusta, though, the Argentinian perked up at just the right time after relatively quiet rounds of 71 and 70.

"I think the confidence was the key," he said. "The first two days I was hitting it OK but I lacked that confidence, and today I had it and I trusted and that made a big difference. I took advantage of what I had. I hit the ball very well, but also I took advantage. Maybe the other two days I hit it good and didn't take advantage as I did today."

For the second time in three years, Cabrera played his way into the final pairing. In 2009, he was tied for the lead with Kenny Perry before ultimately beating Perry and Chad Campbell in a playoff to become the first South American winner of the Masters.

This time he will be chasing a young and confident Rory McIlroy, who extended his lead to four strokes.

Cabrera, also the 2007 U.S. Open winner, is the only player among the top eight on the leaderboard with a major title to his credit.

"Obviously I'm playing my 12th Masters," he said. "I've won here before, it's very special. But at the end of the day it's very important what I can do (Sunday). ... The young kids are playing very well. I think they deserve it; Rory, Jason. But obviously I have won the Masters, so that should help me a lot."

Cabrera sat out from August to December on doctor's orders to heal the tendinitis in his left wrist. He took advantage of that downtime to have 10 teeth implanted, and he has another appointment with the dentist Monday.

He and K.J. Choi (also tied for second at 8-under) are the only two players near the lead who have been in the hunt down the stretch at the Masters today.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

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