“I knew he was good. I didn’t know he was this good. Whatever small part I’ve played in getting him ready this weekend, I’m proud of that. I hung around and I let this guy go. What a superstar he’s going to be and what a superstar he’s been.”
These were the words of Graeme McDowell after banking a second foursomes point alongside Victor Dubuisson at the 2014 Ryder Cup. On day one, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, with their 100% record through their first four matches starting in Medinah, got the treatment and were subsequently ‘benched’ the whole of Saturday. Cue part of the reason for Mickelson’s infamous outburst on the following night.
On Saturday afternoon Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler, having halved all three of their matches, were smashed 5&4 by McDowell and Dubuisson.
Only a 15-footer at the last hole by Zach Johnson for a half, in a meaningless anchor-match singles, stopped the Frenchman from going three from three.
To the outside world a superstar had been born. To those inside the game this had been waiting to take off.
Dubuisson had enjoyed a spell as the World No. 1 amateur in 2009, and three years before that he had been part of Europe’s Junior Ryder Cup team. Interestingly he beat Tony Finau in one of the fourballs in Wales.
To think both Dubuisson and McDowell wouldn’t be part of the next two teams or, who knows, another Ryder Cup was unthinkable.
The Frenchman wasn’t too far away in 2016 but didn’t get the nod from Darren Clarke. This year he has played just once, missing the cut at the Open de Espana in April.
“My eardrum was hit on the plane on the way back from Spain then, back home, it exploded,” he said in late May. “I was forced to have surgery and I can’t fly. My season is over. I can’t hear anything on the left side.
“I can hit balls but, at the moment of impact, it hurts a lot. Playing would slow down my healing considerably, affecting my balance. I continue to do my ear rehabilitation so I can hear normally.”
Dubuisson has never been one to over-golf himself in the early months of the season, but his most recent start had come in Dubai in November 2017, five months previously. A loss of form would be the easy answer but he was 13th at the World Tour Championship and 3rd the week before at the Nedbank. In October he closed with a 63 at the Old Course to take 3rd spot in the Dunhill Links.
As to why he hadn’t played up until the middle of April this year, who knows? A question that often arises when Dubuisson’s name is mentioned.
The whisper is that he has grown disillusioned with the game and that his time is spent fishing in the south of France. I asked one European Tour player if he knew anything of Dubuisson’s whereabouts.
“Apparently he sacked his golf coach so he can get a fishing coach,” he told me. “The ear thing is true, apparently, but he doesn’t want to play golf.
“There are stories of him turning up and then just going home, or leaving his clubs at airports as he can’t be arsed waiting that extra 20 minutes for them.
“One year he turned up to Abu Dhabi with no trousers and his clubs were left there from the Race to Dubai the previous December. He claims he is shy and really concerned with what people think of him. He is an enigma that is getting a little old.”
Another player I spoke to confirmed he had also heard stories of Dubuisson getting to airports then going straight home because “he doesn’t fancy it”.
He added: “I just don’t think he enjoys golf and I’m not sure he ever has. I think he’s just good at it. But beyond that it’s difficult for me to give an opinion because I don’t know him personally.”
A third player has an altogether different view. “I got on with him fine but didn’t know him well,” he said. “He’s a legend really, just doesn’t give a shit. I’m a fan.”
Another whisper is that he plans to return to action in Hong Kong at the end of November.
It seems to come with the territory of being from France to have the adjective ‘enigmatic’ not too far away but, for Dubuisson, it couldn’t be more apt.
Paul McGinley seemed to get his head around his French star better than most, singling out McDowell as his chaperone for Gleneagles months in advance. So the story goes, Dubuisson was late or in the wrong place at the Ryder Cup more often than not but it would be overlooked.
A common refrain for the week would be ‘Where’s Victor?’
He even managed to get inside-the-ropes passes for several friends which was highly irregular. The other players thought it was hilarious.
“Not everybody is Ian Poulter,” McGinley said. “Victor is a challenge for a different reason. I have made it my business to get to know him, and I like him. He has got flair, charisma, Hollywood looks. There is something special about him, and I like the fact that he is different.”
As for McDowell, how did he view his prospective partner at the start of the week?
“I have heard Victor described as an enigma and just a tough guy to get your head around, to know what he is thinking. But his relaxed mood and personality could be confused with intimidation and nervousness.
“Clearly he doesn’t lack talent. I’ve been trying to get close to him over the last few months and he’s a great guy.”
Will we see Dubuisson back on tour? Mark dissects the Frenchman’s relationship with the media and speaks to the journalist who knows him best on the next page…