Dubuisson fails to escape with victory in Arizona but loses nothing in defeat
Shy 23-year-old has virtually assured himself Ryder Cup place
Victor Dubuisson of France chips from a cactus on the 20th hole during the championship match of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain, Arizona, on February 23rd, 2014. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
The days of flying in under the radar are gone.
He may prefer the quiet life, one that mixes shyness with eccentricity, but for Victor Dubuisson defeat in the WGC-Accenture Matchplay final has only served to propel him into the limelight.
His world has changed, with comparisons to Seve Ballesteros – both for his film star looks and an ability to demonstrate his short-game sorcery – providing some proof that he has emerged from whatever shadows he frequented.
A few months ago, back in November, Victor Dubuisson – a former number one ranked world amateur – claimed a maiden professional win in the Turkish Airlines Open where he left, among others, Tiger Woods in his slipstream.
On being told that the win would earn him a ticket to the US Masters, Dubuisson, barely audible, first giggled and then responded, “wow, it’s amazing what you just told me”. He spent the following few seconds grinning and shaking his head.
That win should have reinforced the belief that this young Frenchman had game. Ironically it was in defeat to Jason Day in the Arizona desert, proving that sometimes we do remember losers in sport, that Dubuisson grabbed our imagination.
Firstly in fighting to send the final into sudden death holes, and then with his escapology from the cactus plants. Before, finally, and compellingly, bowing to his conqueror.
In defeat Dubuisson lost nothing. He gained.
First off, the 23-year-old – in moving to the top of Europe’s Ryder Cup points list – has virtually assured himself of a place on Paul McGinley’s team for Gleneagles with the race not yet half run; and, secondly, he has earned special temporary membership of the PGA Tour with unlimited sponsors’ exemptions available should he wish to avail of them.
As McGinley put it of Dubuisson’s impressive rise to prominence, “he is a nail-on now [for the Ryder Cup]. If he was 90 per cent [sure] before the week, he is 99.9 per cent now . . . I think he will be a very welcome addition to the team. You can’t help but be very impressed. A lot of us were learning about Victor and the fortitude he has shown under pressure.”
The Ryder Cup awaits, just months away. Although the player himself is not one for putting the cart before the horse.
“I don’t like to say it’s my number one goal this year because it would put extra pressure on me, but it is my number one goal.”
Dubuisson’s flight path to being one of the world’s top professionals is rather unusual.
Inspired as a child when watching on television at home in Cannes the deeds of Woods as golf’s newest superstar lifted the 1997 US Masters, Dubuisson went about pursuing his own dreams with a determination that underscores his on-course resolve.
He left school at 12 to devote his time to the driving range and the golf course.
“I was young and it was hard to do both. I had some school lessons at home but mostly I played golf,” he recalled.
He became a young star of the French game, and was selected to play in the Junior Ryder Cup (at Celtic Manor) in 2006 and was on the Europe team that defeated Britain and Ireland in that year’s Jacques Leglise Trophy (in the Czech Republic) where Niall Kearney was the opposing captain.
Financed by the French Golf Federation, he travelled – winning the Mexican Amateur Championship in 2008 and the European amateur in 2009 – and became the world’s top ranked amateur.
In 2010, as a 20-year-old, he turned professional and earned his tour card at Q-school.
In confessing to enjoying his own company, Dubuisson once remarked: “I am quiet, I am shy. I am not a show-up guy . . . I’m very individualistic. I don’t mind to be alone for five, six weeks. Golf is a sport where you’re alone. I just like to play for myself.”
These days, when not touring, he has made his home in Andorra in the Pyrenees. Away from the spotlight.
Dubuisson’s win in Turkey last year saw that rich talent emerge on to the professional stage. Woods had moved from being his idol to a competitor.
In the WGC-Accenture, Dubuisson’s fortitude was again evident as he toughed it out to the death. He lost, but he won too. The best, it would seem, is yet to come.
Frenchman hangs tough:
Victor Dubuisson didn’t know how or when to wave the white flag. He kept going. Three down with six holes to play in his final with Jason Day, the Frenchman scrambled a par on the 18th hole to force extra time.
Then it got really interesting.
At the first extra hole his nine-iron approach sailed through the green and settled close to a jumping cholla, the official plant of the matchplay tournament since it moved to Tucson in 2007.
Somehow Dubuisson managed to chip the ball out of the desert lie – avoiding the cacti – to just over four feet and save par.
On the 20th (the par four ninth) his approach again missed the green and his ball found a desert lie.
Again he punched out – to seven feet – and saved par.
Day could hardly believe his eyes.
“I kept shaking my head because there were a couple of times when I thought he was dead,” admitted the Aussie.
It took Day until the 23rd hole, with a winning birdie, to finally see off Dubuisson.