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Martin Dempster: Dubuisson set to become team player

Victor Dubuisson evoked memories of Seve Ballesteros with some of his recovery play. Picture: AP

Victor Dubuisson evoked memories of Seve Ballesteros with some of his recovery play. Picture: AP

  • by MARTIN DEMPSTER
 

FANS of Still Game will be delighted. The course that Jack built is going to have Victor playing it. For Jack, read Nicklaus, designer of the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles.

For Victor, read Dubuisson, the Frenchman virtually certain now to be heading there in September as a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup team.

Twelve months ago, Dubuisson was about to head into the Avantha Masters in India on the back of three missed cuts in five events, sat 134th in the world rankings and appeared as unlikely as the sitcom Jack and Victor of delaying an episode of The Good Wife on US network TV (as happened on Sunday night).

His rise to golfing stardom has been remarkable, a breakthrough European Tour triumph in the Turkish Airlines Open last November having uncorked the talent that lifted him to No 1 in the amateur world rankings in 2009 and now, after reaching the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, just 22 spots from that position in the professional game.

Having climbed to a career-high fourth in those rankings, Jason Day has Tiger Woods closer in his sights and, considering he has already knocked on the door in majors – the Masters in particular – in recent years, don’t be surprised if the Australian really kicks on from the biggest win of his career.

Similar, though nowhere near the same degree, to Tom Watson in the 2009 Open Championship, however, it was the loser at Dove Mountain that set tongues wagging, Dubuisson having first ended Graeme McDowell’s resistance to being bundled out the exit door before digging deep to stage fightbacks against both Ernie Els and Day.

His escapes at the first two extra holes, the first from the bottom of a cactus and the second from another wiry desert plant, were as magical as anything the great Seve Ballesteros conjured up, though just as impressive was the way Dubuisson rolled the putts into the heart of the hole.

Having won close to £1.9 million since being transformed from a potential plodder to global superstar, the Andorran-based player is now well out in front in the European points list for the Ryder Cup. Indeed, it would take an unlikely set of circumstances between now and August for him to be deprived of an automatic spot and, in the process, join just two compatriots, Jean Van de Velde and Thomas Levet, in representing France in the inter-continental contest.

“It looks like with the points he has accumulated he is a nail-on now,” noted Paul McGinley, the European captain, in the wake of Dubuisson’s latest eye-catching display. “If he was 90 per cent before the week he is 99.9 per cent now. With all the evidence we have seen this week 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 all learning about Victor and the fortitude he has shown under pressure all week has been most impressive.”

While Dubuisson has shown he has the game and fight for a Ryder Cup, he is certainly no Van de Velde or, more so, Levet in terms of what he would bring to the team room. Unlike that pair, he is shy, aloof and, believe it or not, does not like conducting interviews in his native tongue. It has even been rumoured that Dubusion has been thinking about becoming a Monaco national.

“I don’t mind being alone,” he said to being asked about a reputation for being in a world of his own at times and, occasionally, a bit of a loose cannon, something Callum Macaulay, a member of Scotland’s Eisenhower Trophy-winning team, alluded to when he tweeted at the weekend about Dubuisson “launching his wedge into the forest” after being refused a drop when they were paired together in the BMW International in Germany last year.

“Golf is a sport where you’re alone,” added Dubuisson, “and I just like to play for myself.” That’s not the attitude, of course, that fostered Europe’s excellent recent Ryder Cup record and the final session apart, playing in it isn’t about being alone. It’s about being part of a team, which is why it will be helpful for Dubuisson, hopefully, that he is playing in the new EurAsia Cup (Miguel Angel Jimenez has selected Pablo Larrazábal and Thorbjørn Olesen for the event in Malaysia) in a few weeks’ time.

Watch out, too, for McGinley being in the same group as him a few times between now and September, the Irishman having already welcomed the challenge of having someone as different/difficult as Dubuisson on board in Perthshire in an interview earlier in the season. “Who would want a team of clones?” he said of the baggage this particular Frenchman is perceived to carry.

 

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