GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Plucking two scarcely believable shots from the cactus for par saves in the Match Play Championship final in February thrust Victor Dubuisson into golf’s global consciousness.
Gary Player said he hadn’t seen anything like it in 60 years in the sport. Nick Faldo compared him to Seve Ballesteros.
Dubuisson, despite losing the final to Jason Day, briefly was the talk of golf.
For the reserved, private and softly spoken Frenchman, he’d rather that hadn’t been the case.
Dubuisson, who keeps his past very much in the past, is the European team’s mystery man heading into his first Ryder Cup this week. Even his teammates know little about him.
“Does anybody really know Victor?” Thomas Bjorn asked Tuesday.
Graeme McDowell, a potential partner for Dubuisson when play starts Friday, described him as an “enigma” and a “tough guy of get your head around of what he’s thinking.”
The 24-year-old Dubuisson acknowledges he is quiet and humble but, after just a day at Gleneagles, is already embracing the team dynamic that makes the Ryder Cup so special.
“Everybody has two different (sides) … I think when you are at your work and when you are outside with your friends, it’s very different,” Dubuisson said. “Honestly you can ask the other players. I’m a very funny and cool guy.”
The little that Dubuisson has spilled about his back story is interesting. He is the nephew of Herve Dubuisson, one of French basketball’s greatest players, and he has indicated in interviews that he left school before he was a teenager to concentrate on golf and that he “didn’t really have family.”
He played tennis and football as a youngster but settled into golf, he said Tuesday, because “you’re on your own” and he didn’t want to play in a team sport. Dubuisson smiled when it was put to him that he was the “Greta Garbo of golf” because of the mystery surrounding him.
What is not in question is Dubuisson’s talent.
The world’s No. 1 amateur in 2009, he held off a high-class field including Tiger Woods and Justin Rose in the final round of the Turkish Open last year to win his first major professional tournament. And that extraordinary performance in the match-play format in the Arizona desert in February effectively sealed his place at the Ryder Cup, where he is the European team’s youngest player.
His ball was at the bottom of a cactus on one playoff hole and it was at the base of bush on another. He gave it a good whack on both shots, with the ball shooting over TV cables and through rough to land close enough to the pin to make par.
“When some people compared my shots with what he (Seve) used to do, with a few shots he did in the past, it was a very big thing for me,” Dubuisson said. “It was very emotional.”
Dubuisson, whose first memory of a Ryder Cup is when he attended the K Club in 2006, practiced with Henrik Stenson and McDowell on Tuesday. It is the latter who is being talked about as a partner for the Frenchman.
“His relaxed mood, personality, could be confused with maybe intimidation and nervousness,” McDowell said. “I’ve been trying to get close to him the last few months and spend a little time with him. He’s a great guy.”
Dubuisson is the third Frenchman, after Jean Van de Velde (1999) and Thomas Levet (2004), to play for Europe in the Ryder Cup. And it just might raise extra interest in his home country, which is hosting the Ryder Cup in 2018.
“I actually have a funny feeling,” Bjorn said, “that this guy might just stand up and be a great hero by the end of this week.”