Angel Cabrera posted a second consecutive round in the 60s at Quail Hollow Club to take a share of the lead at the Wells Fargo Championship heading into the weekend. The Argentinian fired a three-under 69 to follow his first-round six-under 66, a two-day total of nine-under.
“It was a great round,” he said. “I was hoping to have a round below par today and ended up having a great round, and I really did hit it well, especially on the second nine.”
Cabrera bogeyed his last hole, the 9th (started on no. 10), but he hit a few magnificent short game shots to keep him atop the leaderboard. He hit a difficult bunker shot on the par-5 7th and then backed it up with a beautifully-judged flop shot on the short par-4 8th. Both led to birdies.
“Getting out of the bunker wasn’t that difficult because I just needed to get it out there in that area,” said Cabrera in his post-round presser. “The chip was more complicated. I needed to decide if I wanted to bring it up or keep it low and let it bump, so I ended up doing that.
“It was a great shot. That’s what we wanted.”
Cabrera enjoys Quail Hollow Club because it allows him to hit driver on almost every hole.
“Honestly, it’s a course that lets me hit driver a lot and for that reason, it probably fits my game well, and that’s probably why I play well here.”
Cabrera has missed the cut in four of his last five starts. In fact, this week is only the third cut he’s made in the 2013-14 season. His best finish was T43 at the Shell Houston Open. Despite his poor form as of late, he’s not shocked with his performance so far at the Wells Fargo.
“I’ve been working really hard and working hard to have weeks like this, and I’m going to keep working and more weeks like this will come,” he said.
As we know, though, for whatever reason, Cabrera tends to step it up in majors and even if it is a bit of a surprise, it’s not really one when we see his name appear on the leaderboard at a marquee event. Cabrera has won twice on the PGA Tour, with both events being majors — the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, win two majors,” he said. “The first one was a bit of a shock. The second one I was definitely not surprised by. But like I said earlier, I continue to work, and that’s where these results come from, and I will continue to work and win other tournaments.”
Perhaps it’s more of a surprise to see Cabrera’s co-leader, Martin Flores, sharing the lead with the two-time majors champion — only because Flores is a bit of a relative unknown. Flores opened with a five-under 67 and backed it up with a four-under 68.
Flores got off to an ideal start on Friday morning. Teeing off no. 10, he birdied his first hole, then holed out from 105 yards from the fairway on no. 11. His reaction? He barely had one.
“I’m pretty level, so I actually got made fun of because I didn’t give any reaction,” said Flores in his post-round presser. “Brian Harman, his caddy, said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll go pick it up out of the hole’ because I didn’t do anything.
“I actually thought the ball stopped. I thought it was long, because it was behind the pin, and I couldn’t see it roll so I just started walking, I had my head down and I was thinking, that’s a nice shot, let’s go make it, and then all of the sudden I heard the cheers so kinda did one of those! It was a great start to the day.”
Flores is happy with his start, but is fully aware THERE’S A LOT OF GOLF LEFT and knows he needs to stay patient, which shouldn’t be to difficult for the self-described “chill” guy.
“I’ll just try to go out there each day and play my best,” said Flores. “And be very, very patient, like I said before, because a lot of times in the past, I’ve tried to be too perfect, and for some reason this sport doesn’t really work out that way. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and focus on tomorrow and go out there and play really well tomorrow.”
Flores has been working on becoming a more complete player.
“I’ve worked really hard on my wedges and my short game and putting, and to become a more consistent driver of the golf ball,” he said. “The best players in the world are complete players, so I’ve been working on I’ve been really trying to balance my practice. Not really focusing so hard in one area, and that’s really helped me.”
Just trailing Cabrera and Flores by a stroke is the reigning U.S. Open champion, Justin Rose, who fired a five-under 67 on Friday to follow his three-under 69 in the opening round.
Rose had a timely chip-in for eagle on no. 15 that helped get his day rolling (he started on no. 10).
“Obviously those cheap eagles, they get you going,” said Rose. “It was a nice chip-in on the 15.
“I was pleased overall today. I did everything well in spells today, drove it well in spells, my lines were a bit better today. I felt like I putted pretty well, too.”
The only perhaps negatives to Rose’s day happened on nos. 7 and 8, but he still managed to salvage pars.
“Anything negative would be 7 and 8, not taking care of those two holes but at the same time that pin on 7 was incredibly difficult today,” he said. “Phil putted off the green, I left 7 and 8 short, so very tough to get a two-putt down there from the ridge. But finished with a nice putt for par at the last hole, which made the day feel incredibly positive.”
Rose has had a bit of a frustrating season so far and hasn’t won since he captured the U.S. Open at Merion last June. But, much of that may have to do with a shoulder injury that’s held him back from going full throttle and causing him to miss the first six weeks of the year. He’s feeling healthy once again, though.
“I would say definitely I’ve been feeling good for a number of weeks now and feeling good on the driving range for at least a month,” said Rose. “Sometimes it’s a lag affect before it shows up on the golf course, but I just felt that I needed to string a number of rounds together.
“I’ve had a lot of stop-starts this year, and I just felt like I needed to get toned and sharp, and that’s beginning to show up. My short game is sharp, and I’m seeing the ball go in with my putter, so all in all feeling really good.”
He’s pleased with his position heading into the weekend.
“I feel I’m in a good spot. Obviously you can never win it on Thursday or Friday, you can only lose it. So two good solid days, put me in a good position for the weekend. I think Martin Flores got in 9-under is that correct?
“So I won’t be leading, but I expect a few guys to go out there and shoot well this afternoon, so I’ll be in and around exactly where I need to be, last couple of groups off, possibly, and Saturday is all about keeping pace with the leaders and Sunday, as we all know, it’s the strongest man of the day.”
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy is in somewhat of a familiar place. Rewind back to four years ago when McIlroy made the cut on the number and trailed the leader by 10. He ended up firing scores of 66-62 over the weekend and winning the tournament.
This week, it’s been a little different, but once again, he just squeezed in at one-over through 36 holes to see weekend play. McIlroy got off to a rough start, to say the least — he was five-over through four holes after three-putting the second hole and then making double-bogeys on nos. 3 and 4.
He had to take unplayable lies on both of them because first on no. 3, he hit his drive under a tree and his ball was up against a root, and then on no. 4, he pulled it into the bushes left of the green.
“I got a little careless with my first hole, and second hole knocked it a few feet by, so 3-putt bogey wasn’t what I wanted to start off with, and I hit it right behind the tree on the third on the left, and I had to take an unplayable, and I had to take an unplayable on 4, hit my shot left of the green and it ended up in a bush over there,” said McIlroy.
“So, just sloppy shots and ended up making two doubles in a row. I guess after that was a little better but I didn’t have my game today.”
He ended up following his three-under 69 with a four-over 76. However, McIlroy did drive the ball beautifully.
“Off the tee it was good, I drove the ball pretty well, didn’t get the ball close enough with my approach shots, and my putting didn’t feel as comfortable today as it did yesterday,” he said.
Earlier in the week, McIlroy revealed he had been struggling with his putter and discovered that he was aiming incorrectly and standing too close to the ball. He was also open in his stance, causing him to cut the ball and miss left-to-right putts on the low side of the hole. Following Friday’s round, Rory said he was going to work on his stroke on the practice green to figure some things out.
“I felt today I got a lot of left-to-righters, and what I’m trying to do on my stroke, I’m feeling uncomfortable on my putts, so I am going to go to the putting green and hit a lot of left-to-right putts and feel more comfortable over them,” he said. “I feel like every time when I feel like I’m aiming correctly I’m aiming too low and not trusting it and not hitting a good putt. I had a couple little ones, held one on 14, coming in, but I needed to do better.”
Rory does feel some comfort with his position heading into the weekend mimicking the year he won in 2010, though.
“It was the exact same numbers,” recalled McIlroy. “I think I was plus-1 for the tournament, and the leader was 9-under par, and it’s the same again, but I mean, I don’t know, I’ll have to
“I would have to do the exact same thing over the weekend to win, but I am going to work on my clubbing here tonight and try and shoot a low one tomorrow. At least give myself a chance to do the same thing as I did a few years ago.”
He didn’t deliver it in the most convincing manner, but I think he was still reeling from his poor performance in the second round.
(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)