Cabrera sees off McGinley challenge to clinch title

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The Independent Online

As the bitter words being waged off the golf course depressingly overshadowed the sweet science being played on it, it was left to Angel Cabrera to remind all of the positive side of competition yesterday. And in winning his biggest title to date, as well his biggest cheque (£459,000), the Argentine provided the PGA Championship with its most high-profile winner in five years.

As the bitter words being waged off the golf course depressingly overshadowed the sweet science being played on it, it was left to Angel Cabrera to remind all of the positive side of competition yesterday. And in winning his biggest title to date, as well his biggest cheque (£459,000), the Argentine provided the PGA Championship with its most high-profile winner in five years.

Not to say that the 35- year-old is one of the admirals of his sport, but at least as the golfing equivalent of lieutenant-commander in the world-rankings, Cabrera made sure that the European Tour's flagship event was no longer in the hands of the midshipmen.

Understandably, Scott Drummond, Ignacio Garrido, Anders Hansen and Andy Oldcorn would bristle at such a description, but although they are undeniably fine players, the sponsors, BMW, were unashamedly wearing grins as wide as their bonnets after their first year was capped with a veritable five-series of a battle between two of the Tour's most popular professionals.

While the former caddie from Cordoba was applauded with gusto to the rostrum, there was a groundswell of sympathy for the runner-up. After the 64 on Friday that had sprung him into contention, Paul McGinley spoke with hand-on-his-heart passion of his desire to win a big one for himself after being so influential in Europe's last two Ryder Cup victories.

For long periods during the final round, it seemed as if the Dubliner would get his lifelong wish as five birdies took him to the turn one shot clear of Cabrera, who he had trailed by two at the day's start.

But this 15-stoner is nothing if not a fighter, as he has proved with two second places in the USPGA Championship, and by the 11th Cabrera was on level terms again.

With Peter Hedblom, the joint overnight leader, going backwards as quickly as the unheralded Swede had stepped forward with a 64 on Friday night, and with David Howell seemingly rooted to par, it was now a two-horse race.

It was to be neck and neck all the way. Both birdied the par-five 12th, then matched each other through to the 15th, but on the 16th it was all to change. McGinley found two bunkers on the short par-four and when Cabrera made an 18-footer for birdie he suddenly had a two-shot lead he was never destined to lose.

Despite having to pay 10 per cent of his winnings to Eduardo Romero, the professional who became his young countryman's hero and mentor by sponsoring him as a struggling wannabe in return for a cut of any future earnings, Cabrera struck a blessed white-toothed image on what had otherwise been a Sunday of few smiles.

"It really is the best moment of my life, winning the second-best tournament in Europe," said Cabrera who was ending a run of close-run finishes on the West Course having come second here last year and in 2001. "I was two times very close, and fortunately, today when I had my chance again I was able to take it."

That is a position McGinley was coming to terms with last night, and although there were many positives to take from the week, not least his rise into the world's top 50 that ensures his participation in next month's US Open, there was one giant negative that made it a very emotional afternoon for the 38-year-old.

On Wednesday, Heather Clarke was admitted to a London hospital to have a procedure after complications arose due to the intensive treatment she has been receiving for liver cancer. The prognosis was bad enough for Darren, her husband, to withdraw from this tournament on Saturday when standing 11th.

"Everything has been put in context this week," McGinley said. "Alison [his wife] and Heather are good friends and our children are in the same class. Yes, we're very close to the Clarkes, so to see what they're going through tears your heart out. I wanted to win this for her, I really did."

Alas, it was not to be, although McGinley had given something back to the tournament that had long been forgotten. Perspective had been in short supply on the European Tour.

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