Tiger Woods loomed large in his absence around Augusta National on Tuesday. One by one, players came into the press room and told cute stories about their interactions with the wounded champ, growing wistful over Woods missing this Masters as he continues to heal from injuries sustained in his single-car accident on February 23. Ahead of the Tuesday night Champions Dinner there was talk of his comrades leaving a chair empty for Tiger in a touching gesture of regard.

Another Masters champ is absent this week but it has provoked little discussion and no sentimental tributes. Instead of enjoying his place among the sport’s royalty, Angel Cabrera stews in gaol cell in Brazil. The void left by the winner of the 2009 Masters was a taboo subject at the Champions Dinner. Says Larry Mize, “We don’t know the details so there’s not much to say. We’re sorry he’s not here and just hope things get better.”

Before the meal, Cabrera was acknowledged along with the other living champs who were missing one of the most exclusive gatherings in sports: Woods; Jackie Burke, Jnr, who at 98 elected not to make the trip; and Charles Coody, 83, still recovering from a recent surgery. “We mentioned those who weren’t there and we prayed for them and that was about it,” says Zach Johnson.

Cabrera was arrested by Brazilian federal officers on January 14 in an upscale neighborhood in São Paolo. He had recently been the subject of a Red Notice issued by Interpol, which alerts police worldwide about internationally wanted fugitives. Cabrera’s legal troubles date back several years, to a filing in his native Argentina by ex-wife Silva Rivadero, who alleged physical assault and verbal threats. A former partner, Cecilia Torres Mana, accused Cabrera of being physically abusive and in one altercation trying to run her over with a car. Her lawyer said publicly that Cabrera repeatedly violated a restraining order that Mana had filed.

Angel Cabrera during the pinnacle of his Masters career, receiving his green jacket after victory in 2009. [Image: The State]
Another ex-girlfriend, Micaela Escudero, also has alleged domestic violence. Over the past three years, as law enforcement in Argentina investigated the allegations, Cabrera was compelled to notify authorities in his hometown of Cordoba whenever he planned to travel abroad. In August 2020, shortly before a trial was to begin, Cabrera failed to give notice that he was flying to the Senior Players Championship in Akron, Ohio. This triggered the Interpol alert, which led to Cabrera’s arrest. The terms of his extradition back to Argentina to stand trial continue to be negotiated.

Cabrera’s lawyer Carlos Hairabedian asserts his client’s innocence, saying in a recent radio interview, “He is not a serial abuser. He is not the monster they have consistently tried to portray him as in the media.”

Along with Roberto de Vicenzo, Cabrera is the most celebrated golfer to come out of South America. With a triumph at the 2007 US Open to go with his Masters win, Cabrera joins Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Dustin Johnson as the only men who have conquered Augusta National and Oakmont. The salacious allegations against Cabrera and now his arrest have generated headlines throughout South America. At the Masters, where the past champs enjoy a lifetime of lionisation, Cabrera’s absence did not create so much as a ripple on Rae’s Creek.

– Additional reporting by Luis Fernando Llosa

Alan Shipnuck is a partner with the Fire Pit Collective.