FRENCHMAN Victor Dubuisson effectively secured his Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles in September after setting up a title showdown with Australian Jason Day in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Ernie Els, conqueror of Stephen Gallacher in the opening round at Dove Mountain, had been three up after just four holes in yesterday morning’s semi-final as Dubuisson made a shaky start. But the Turkish Airlines Open winner made a crucial par save from 15ft on the seventh to avoid going further behind and then birdied three of the next four holes to get back on level terms.
A par on the 12th was enough to give Dubuisson his first lead of the day as the match began to swing back and forth, the Frenchman making a mess of the 14th but holing from six feet for a birdie on the 15th to get back in front.
Els then holed from long range on the 16th to make it all square once more, but the 2012 Open champion bogeyed the last after hitting his approach into a greenside bunker to send Dubuisson into the final.
It meant the 23-year-old was guaranteed at least £545,000, which all but wrapped up his place in Paul McGinley’s team to face the Americans in Perthshire.
“I didn’t sleep very well last night, I slept like one hour, and this morning I woke up and I realised that I was playing against Ernie Els, one of my favourite players,” the 23-year-old admitted afterwards.
“On the first tee, I shook the hand of Ernie and I wasn’t feeling comfortable. I was watching him and I was very impressed to be next to him. I was thinking of all the matches he won and the (two British) Opens.”
Day, meanwhile, was certain of achieving a career-high world ranking after moving into the final of the £5.4 million event.
Day beat American Rickie Fowler 3 & 2 and will climb to sixth in the ranking if he lost last night’s final, or fourth with a victory. The 26-year-old looked to be cruising to victory when he led by three holes with seven to play, but lost the next two to give Fowler hope of mounting a successful comeback.
However, Fowler then bogeyed the 15th after chipping across the green and into a drainage ditch and the match came to an anti-climactic end as the American three-putted the 16th from six feet.
“I knew Jason was going to be tough,” Fowler said. “He made quite a few good putts, he didn’t give me a whole lot. He missed a par putt on 12 but other than that he played solid all day. On 15 I was in a tough position, I couldn’t really make anything of it and 16 was a complete mis-read. Jason played well and he’s going to be tough to beat this afternoon.”
Day added: “I felt like I had a really good chance of having a shot of winning this week and I am really looking forward to it. I played some nice golf today so hopefully I can keep it going in the final.”