With all the star quality on show in Europe’s Ryder Cup team, it is hard to imagine that question marks would appear over one of the tour’s most consistent performers in the last year. However, that is exactly what Frenchman Victor Dubuisson is experiencing. The Ryder Cup always brings up a wildcard here and a fluke there (Pierre Fulke, Chris Riley, Brett Wetterich), but Dubuisson has already shown his might in the heat of battle and may surprise a few nay-sayers come the weekend.
It has been well-documented in the build-up to the event that, despite his undoubted talent and flair, Dubuisson is an odd character and an overall mysterious figure. “Does anyone really know Victor?” asked fellow team-member Thomas Bjorn. The fact is that nobody really does.
In the aftermath of his breakthrough victory last November at the Turkish Airlines Open- when he held off challenges from Tiger Woods and Justin Rose among others- golf journalists and writers én masse began circulating the Frenchman in the hope to gain unprecedented access into one of golf’s emerging stars. Dubuisson, in an act of now seemingly characteristic quirkiness, granted several high-profile interviews only to fail to attend them. It seems that wherever he goes, he leaves a trail of head-scratches and quizzical looks.
Dubuisson comes from a sporting family. His uncle was Herve Dubuisson, one French basketball’s greatest sons, and Victor has indicated that he was never interested in a team sport- something which may alarm Paul McGinley should he read it considering the core values of the Ryder Cup.
However, for those that are meticulously analysing his every mannerism, expression and statement should refrain from their forensic style. Dubuisson has a brilliant natural talent for golf and has shown it at the highest levels. Ultimately, that is the most important thing about him for this week.
For all his eccentricities and his secretive off-course profile, V-Dub- as he is known to fellow pro’s- is quickly establishing himself as one of Europe’s hottest golfing properties. At 24, he is the youngest member in the team and has already achieved a great deal. Along with the aforementioned triumph in Turkey, he showed a glimpse of his mercurial talents at the World Accenture Matchplay Championship in Arizona back in February when, he played pitch shots from near-impossible positions and roused thunderous acclaim from the American crowd who were still getting to know him.
Playing in the final of the prestigious event against Australian Jason Day, Dubuisson seriously overcooked his approach to the par-4 1st hole and found his ball lying deeply embedded in a cactus. “I don’t know how he’s going to play this shot,” muttered American broadcaster Jim Nantz as Dubuisson weighed up his options. Then, as Nantz and Nick Faldo continued their discussion, Dubuisson eliminated all fuss and played his shot. He got the ball to four feet and made the resulting putt. Everyone watching was stunned.
Dubuisson was not done there though. He repeated the feat on the 18th, when faced with an identical situation, he plucked the ball from the root of a cactus to within seven feet. Again, he sunk the putt. Incredible was the word on the lips of everyone who had just witnessed it.
Some even compared him to the immortal Seve Ballesteros, who first garnered his reputation as a swashbuckler from all corners of the golf course when he sprayed drives left and right en route to his famous 1977 Open Championship triumph at Royal Lytham.
While comparing him to the great Seve may be brash thinking, he does accumulate a similar type of excitement with his devil-may-care approach and sorcerer-esque powers of recover and goes a long way in explaining why he has been embraced by golfing patrons across Europe.
He also notched top-10 finishes in the Open Championship and PGA Championship over the summer to show that he was worth his place in the team. The fact is that he continues to play good golf and is already arousing great interest in the game over in France now that they have a golfing poster-boy. Expect Dubuisson to be a pivotal part of the 2018 Ryder Cup- when it is to be played at Le Golf National in Paris (the first time Europe will host the event outside Great Britain since Valderrama in Spain in 1997).
Captain McGinley has said of Dubuisson: “He’s a really great guy. I like him. I think he’s got flair. I think he’s got charisma. I think he’s got Hollywood looks. He could do as well in Hollywood as he would on the golf course. There’s something special about him and I kind of like the fact he’s different.”
Not exactly sure about him starring alongside Michael Fassbender in a crime thriller in the coming months but one thing is for sure, he can pull off the Hollywood golf shots.
The question for McGinley quickly became; who do you pair with this mysterious individual? Do you thrust him into the limelight with Rory McIlroy? Do you ease him into it with a seasoned veteran like Lee Westwood? Or do you get his heartbeat racing by pairing him alongside the ferociously competitive Ian Poulter? The rumours swirling about seem to suggest that Graeme McDowell will be the man charged with easing this rookie into golf’s most intense amphitheatre.
“I’ve heard him described as an enigma, and just a tough guy to kind of get your head around what he’s thinking,” McDowell responded when asked about the potential partnership. “He obviously doesn’t lack talent. His sort of relaxed mood, personality could be confused with maybe intimidation and nervousness.
“I’ve kind of been trying to sort of get close to him the last few months, and spend a little time with him. He’s a great guy. Victor I think can bring a huge amount to the team this week. I would very much embrace the task of blooding a guy like Victor. I would love to play with him.”
McDowell’s words almost make it a guarantee that they will go into battle together. However, do not expect them to be firing up the crowd on the opening morning. Being a rookie, Dubuisson is likely to be eased into proceedings by Captain McGinley in the afternoon foursomes on Friday.
A lot has been said about the unknown quantity in the European ranks this week but, on the evidence of his golf in the past 12 months and his unflappable calmness in the face of pretty much anything, do not be surprised if Victor Dubuisson is a key contributor to Europe’s bid for a third successive Ryder Cup.