South America's most accomplished golfer was on Interpol's red code list.

He won the US Open at Oakmont in 2007 by one shot over Americans Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, triumphed at the Masters in a playoff in 2009 but lost in a 2013 playoff to Australia's Adam Scott.

Police said in a statement that the arrest was made in an upper class area of Rio de Janeiro, without announcing the suspect's name, describing him only as a 51-year-old Argentine.

Two federal police officers based in Rio separately confirmed to The Associated Press that Cabrera was the man arrested. Both agreed to give the information only if granted anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the topic publicly.

Officials in Argentina have charged him with assault, theft, illegal intimidation and repeated disrespect to authorities.

Argentine media reported earlier in January that Cabrera's former wife, Silva Rivadero, had filed two charges against the golfer. The reports also said that Cecilia Torres, another former partner, claimed Cabrera had punched her, threatened her and attempted to run her over with his car in 2016.

Cabrera did not play in the Masters when it moved to November last year because of surgery on his left wrist.