By Matthew Rudy
Each time Angel Cabrera overpowers a major championship with huge tee shots at critical moments, we wonder why he doesn't do it a "regular" Tour stop.
At The Greenbrier, the 44-year-old Argentine finally did, shooting a pair of weekend 64s to take a third title to go with his 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters wins.
Cabrera's success in West Virginia had the same flavor as his other wins. He birdied the 11th and 12th holes to take the lead from George McNeill, then eagled the 13th with an 8-iron from 176 yards. On the 16th and 17th, his tee shots traveled more than 330 yards each, and he averaged 307 per drive for the event.
"He does all the regular things tour players do well, in terms of setup and balance, but you can see where all that extra power comes from when he goes into his backswing," says three-time World Long Drive champion Sean Fister. "On the backswing, his right elbow works higher than his left. At the top, his right elbow is high, in that Jack Nicklaus position that is so signature of a long hitter. After the transition, he slams that right elbow into his right hip and starts turning hard."
Cabrera's massive hip turn and heavy clubhead lag translate into speed that far surpasses most 6-foot-1, 245-pound guys in their mid-40s. "At impact, his belt buckle is pretty much already facing his target," says Fister, who performs long drive exhibitions and teaches power clinics from his base in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. "He's firing those hips like nobody's business. He posts his left leg straight and turns hard into his left hip socket, and that club can't help but come through really fast."
Ironically, Cabrera's powerful engine is probably what has prevented him from winning more than three events. "He has wonderful body control and is able to stay centered and rotate between his feet instead of lunging -- which is what most players do - -but when you have this much rotation you have to have perfect timing," says Fister. "You're on the upper end of speed, and your timing has to be better than everybody else's. That's why you don't see any professional long drivers on the PGA Tour. If it's just a little off, he's going have big misses."
Amateurs looking for more power should immediately copy Cabrera's top-of-the-backswing position," says Fister. "Let that right elbow come up," he says. "Amateurs pin that elbow to their side, and it puts the club in a flat position. Then you lunge ahead of the ball on the downswing and have to manufacture something to hit it. Focus on keeping your hip turn between your feet and leading with that right elbow on the downswing and you'll get that great inside path and a lot more power."