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Greenbrier notebook: Cabrera charges to within 2 strokes

CHRIS DORST | Sunday Gazette-Mail
Scott Stallings tees off toward the 18th green Saturday.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Angel Cabrera has never won a tournament other than a major on U.S. soil. The Argentine is in great position to change that after tying for Saturday’s low round, carding a 6-under 64 on the par-70 Old White TPC during the third round of the Greenbrier Classic.

Cabrera, who is playing in the Classic for the first time, pulled into second place with a 10-under 200, just two strokes off the lead of Billy Hurley III.

“He’s been playing well, but he made some putts finally and that made the difference,’’ longtime coach Charlie Epps said, translating Cabrera’s statements. “He just felt birdieing [Nos.] 1 and 2 was important to continue to play well the rest of the day.’’

The 44-year-old Cabrera won the U.S. Open in 2007 and the Masters in 2009, the only two tournaments he has won in the U.S.

“It’s a very impressive golf course,’’ Epps said. “It’s a course he enjoys playing and [he’s] having fun. All he has to do is keep playing well. He’d like to have the title and he‘s just got to keep working.’’

Good call, Steve

Steve Stricker’s last-minute decision to play the Greenbrier Classic appears to have been a wise one. He shot another 2-under 68 Saturday and stands at 8-under 202 coming into today’s final round, just four shots off the lead.

He started his round with a 40-foot-plus lag putt that dropped for a birdie, which helped him feel comfortable, since he’s playing in just his eighth event of the season.

“I felt pretty comfortable even when I came here for the first round,’’ Stricker said. “I played Memorial, I played the U.S. Open, then had a couple of weeks off. I’ve been playing at home — it wasn’t like I wasn’t teeing it up at all. And I’m used to it. I’m used to coming out here with not a lot of preparation on Tour.

“It’s a comfortable feeling for me and I’m used to it, and I’m good with that. I just like the way I’m hanging in there. I don’t have my best stuff, I don’t think. I’m not striping it, but this course is tricky, too. It makes you do some funny things at times, so I’m happy with the way I’m plugging along and hanging in there.’’

Thompson’s turnaround

Michael Thompson hasn’t played well in recent weeks, but he’s making up for lost time this week at Old White TPC.

A 29-year-old native of Tucson, Ariz., Thompson fired a 6-under 64 — tied for the day’s best round — to play himself into contention with a total of 8-under 202. He turned in a card with five birdies, an eagle (on No. 12) and just one bogey, a missed 15-inch putt on the first hole.

Even though Thompson has made the cut in 14 of 19 tournaments this season, he’s missed in his last two. So this week’s splurge has come at a good time. As it stands, he’s in line for just his second top-10 finish of the season, the other being a tie for 10th in the Crowne Plaza Invitational in May.

“I’ve made a lot of cuts,’’ Thompson said, “giving myself chances to have really good tournaments. Just haven’t been able to close it out. To have another opportunity going into Sunday is a great experience. It’s something I can build on and carry on into the rest of the year.’’

Thompson said he’s also enjoyed his trip to the resort this week.

“A big part of it is just being excited about being here at The Greenbrier. It’s a really special place. I love the outdoors, and this place just seems to have everything you could ever dream of doing.’’

Chip shots

n This year’s Greenbrier Classic was the first in which the bronze plaque and flagpole at the front of the resort’s driving range honoring Bill Campbell, the state’s most accomplished amateur golfer, was on display for all to see. The dedication came during the post-tournament ceremony of the West Virginia Amateur in June. Campbell, who was from Huntington, died last August at 90 years old and was a fixture at the first three Classic tournaments, greeting players at the first tee.

n Oliver Goss nearly had a hole-in-one on No. 18. The Australian's tee shot spun back a few inches from the hole before rolling, then resting on the edge of the cup.

n Cabrera is leading the tournament in total length of putts made, 343 feet, 2 inches. That's 37 feet longer than the No. 2 putter, Luke Guthrie (6 under). Under the ultra-nerdish strokes gained/putting category, Cabrera was computed to have gained 5.5 strokes on the field with his third-round performance.

n Old White's stroke average fell to 69.180 on Friday, partially a product of lesser players being cut from the field. The three-round total is 70.147.

n Cabrera also had the day and the tournament's longest drive, a behemoth blast of 372 yards on the sixth hole. Joe Durant had the longest putt, 45 feet, 5 inches.

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