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Dubuisson Rises to Top of French Golf

The Frenchman is among the most talented youngsters on the European Tour

Posted Nov 12, 2013 by Chris Stewart

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There is a new power in the golfing firmament.  Turkey claimed a place there with an impressive launch of the Turkish Airlines Open on the Montgomerie Maxx Royal stretch at the weekend.  After an inaugural field of 78 and a prize fund of $7 million, they are looking at bigger and better in 12 months, for the second staging in a three-year commitment.

In fact the Turks are so upbeat about golf as a key element of their programme for tourism development, that there is even talk of playing host to the Ryder Cup, sometime down the road.  Either way, the presence of George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, in Antalya last weekend, indicated a partnership set for the long-haul.

Among the fascinating aspects of professional golf’s first Turkish Open was the emergence of 23-year-old Frenchman, Victor Dubuisson, as the winner.  In a pulsating climax which included a hole-in-one by Jamie Donaldson on the 70th – earning him no fewer than one million air miles from the sponsoring company – Dubuisson faced a potentially menacing, right-to-left eight footer on the final green.

Yet it was the sort of situation which tournament professionals dream about, in that he could afford to take two putts for a closing par-five and victory.  And as frequently happens when the ball is being eased carefully towards the target, there was the delightful bonus of seeing it take the break and drop obligingly into the cup for a birdie four and a two-stroke win over the Welshman.

Though French players have made a worthy impact on tour in recent years, they are not associated with regular appearances in the winner’s enclosure, certainly from an historical perspective.  England, for instance, has delivered 283 victories on the European Tour.  And where Continental nations are concerned, Spain is a clear leader with 167, followed by Sweden on 94.

As it happened, Dubuisson’s victory moved France from 13th on the list to joint 12th with Argentina, both countries now having amassed 30 tournament wins.  Against this background, it was a fairly safe assumption that Dubuisson wouldn’t have had the sort of inspirational golfing heroes that have been so numerous, for instance, in the English game.

Anyway, I put the question to him in his moment of triumph.  And with admirable diplomacy, he replied:  “My golfing heroes?  I was playing in front of them today,” he replied with a winning smile.  Then realising that he had actually finished in the last group, he corrected himself:  “They were playing in front of me.”   And given that the closing groupings included none other than Tiger Woods, along with Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson, he was spoiled for choice.

He also had encouraging words for the hospitable Turks.  “What they’ve done here is really good,” he said.  “I mean giving us the opportunity to play such a big tournament with those great players is very good for the European Tour and for guys like me.  Especially when we are trying to make points in the World Ranking so as to get into the big tournaments.”  Then, with a further touch of diplomacy, he added: “Now that I have discovered this place, I will come here during the winter to practise with my coach.”

It is always uplifting to see a young sportsperson realise their dream.  And to do it at 23, as Dubuisson has done, is all the more enriching.  And of all the reactions from the Frenchman in the wake of Sunday’s triumph, one stood apart as far as I was concerned.  It was when he was informed in the media centre that his victory had propelled him so far up the World Rankings as to effectively secure him a place in the US Masters next April.

“I did not know this,” he said with a smile that would have illuminated the Eiffel Tower.  “Today is a dream coming true, and if I played the Masters, it would be so great.”  

A steady stream of emerging talent is indicted by Dubuisson’s achievement as the 12th, first-time winner on the European Tour this season.  And his five-stroke lead at 54 holes was the widest margin on tour since Woods opened up a seven-stroke gap at the same stage in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone last August.

But like politics, tournament golf is essentially local.  So there will be particular satisfaction for the new champion in the fact that at 39th in the current list, he is golf’s highest-ranked Frenchman since Thomas Levet was 41st in the world in January 2005.

- Dermot Gilleece

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