COLIN Montgomerie’s name on the Maxx Royal course in Belek may have to be reviewed. Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, after all, now has a connection with the venue that is just as strong as the man who designed it after winning the £4.6 million Turkish Airlines Open there for the second time in three years.
On a day when Rory McIlroy’s title challenge fizzled out like a damp squib – the world No 3 and Race to Dubai leader was the only player to finish in the top ten who failed to break 70 – Dubuisson birdied three of the last four holes for a 66 for a 22-under-par 266 total.
Repeating a 2013 triumph that saw him hold off Tiger Woods, the 25-year-old Cannes-born player finished one shot ahead of South African Jaco Van Zyl, who fought tooth and nail over the closing circuit in a bid to make his European Tour breakthrough with a wire-to-wire win in the opening event of the circuit’s lucrative Final Series.
Having held the lead briefly early on the back nine, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished a further shot back, missing a short birdie putt at the last to tie with Van Zyl, followed by PGA champion Ben An in fourth, with McIlroy ending up in joint sixth after his hopes of a first win since May disappeared following three dropped shots in the space of four holes around the turn.
“I’ll be going away from this tournament very disappointed with how I played today,” said McIlroy after following three straight 67s with a 71. “It is always disappointing whenever you have a chance to win and don’t play well enough to do that. I don’t know if I was trying a bit too hard out there or what it was. Whenever I get myself in this position, I need to get out of my own way a little bit better.”
The 26-year-old was still in the mix after moving to 17-under with back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth, only to start tugging his irons. “I hit bad shots left on the eighth, ninth and tenth and didn’t get up and down,” he added. “My putting also wasn’t as good today. That’s still work in progress,”
Next up is the WGC HSBC Champions starting in Shanghai on Thursday, when he’ll lock horns with Jordan Spieth for the final time this year after being topped as the game’s top player by the young American this season. “It’s a very strong field so it will be nice to go up against some of the guys that are up there in the world rankings,” said McIlroy. “Sheshan is a course where I’ve played well before and, though this wasn’t the finish I wanted, I feel like I’ve seen enough good signs this week to suggest I can play well in my final two events of the season [the other being the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai].”
Dubuisson said was “disappointed” and “very surprised” that this win hadn’t secured him a place in the last WGC event of the season, having felt “100 per cent sure” it would after tapping in for a title-winning birdie.
His compensation, however, came in the form of a £751,481 winner’s cheque, a return to the top 20 in the Race to Dubai , one million air miles with Turkish Airlines and a victory he felt was sweeter than the one here two years ago. “While your first win is always great, you don’t realise what is really happening,” said Dubuisson. Referring to the fact he’d only managed two top tens – one in the Scottish Open at Gullane – before this welcome return to form, he added: “I felt under more pressure on this occasion due to the fact I’ve not had a good season and I couldn’t dream of something better than winning this week.”
On another sun-kissed day on the Mediterranean coast, the champion’s final round was quite an adventure. His tee shot at the par-3 fifth ended up as a lost ball in bushes left and long. He then made a miraculous par at the tenth where, after having to take a penalty drop from more bushes, he threaded his third through a gap in the trees and used the slope behind the hole to get it to six feet.
When he then chipped in for an eagle at the par-5 11th, you can see why his short game is often likened to that of the great Seve Ballesteros.
While determined to again use winning this event to get into Europe’s Ryder Cup team, he won’t be using the PGA Tour as the route into Darren Clarke’s side for next year’s match at Hazeltine.
“I played a few events at the beginning of the year in the States but, due to personal reasons, I wasn’t feeling good being so far away from my family,” said Dubuisson.
“Now, for the next three or four years, I will just stay in Europe 100 per cent.”