Cabrera had looked headed for a disappointing day after back-to-back bogeys at four and five and his round stalled at two-over with six to play.
But the 2009 Masters champion suddenly found another gear, dropping birdies on five of his final six holes, including four straight from the 13th, for a four-under 140 that left him two shots back of leader Jason Day of Australia.
"For me, Augusta is never easy. Never, ever easy," Cabrera told reporters. "The big difference was that the back nine I was hitting very well off the tee, leaving my second shots close and I was able to make some birdies."
The gusting winds that perplexed many others at Augusta National on Friday proved ideal for the 43-year-old Argentine, who spent a good part of his nomadic career battling similar conditions on the European Tour.
"When the wind is tough, it gets tougher on this course," said Cabrera, whose victory at the 2007 U.S. Open is his only other PGA Tour win. "I'm used to playing with the wind in Europe when I played in Europe.
"So I'm not going to say that this is an advantage necessarily for me but I like playing with wind."
With four other top 10 finishes at Augusta, Cabrera knows exactly what to expect as he heads into a pressure-packed weekend in the year's first major.
- Sports & Recreation