Duel in the Desert – Day and Dubuisson
Among other lessons we learned in the week’s Accenture Match Play, a grueling, “one bad day and you’re out” obstacle course, it’s still possible to have a great time and see some great golf whether the big guns deign to RSVP or not. I, personally didn’t miss Tiger one bit, and hope that his detailed preparations for the Masters, one of the four remaining loves of his life, are going well. I didn’t miss Phil or any of the other no-shows, either. The ones who showed up really wanted to be there to challenge each other and Jack’s demonic course.
We couldn’t have asked for more in the final match, eventually taken by Jason Day, but not without his young opponent garnering a great deal of respect and attention. In fact, this year’s final match had a magic to it, like two young wizards dueling it out. In one corner, Jason Day, the 26 year-old Australian, never let his play sag through the whole week, but really had to keep it together to fend off an incredibly resilient young Frenchman, Victor Dubuisson.
Day was bound to be a crowd favorite in Arizona. He’s been through a lot personally, he’s finished second in three majors, and although residing in the top ten, carries the yoke having almost broken through, but not quite – of being an almost great. This week? No problem.
In the other corner, Victor Dubuisson barged into our consciousness as a gritty, nerves of steel competitor with an excellent game. Perhaps many of us had a subtle trigger going in our minds – that French, golf and trouble lead to meltdowns, such as Jean Van de Welde experienced some years ago in a major. Dubuisson proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that it has nothing at all to do with being French. It doesn’t matter if you’re Martian – if you play golf, you’re going to get in trouble. It’s how you get out of it that counts.
In this regard, Dubuisson was a master. Perhaps you’ve played some of these desert courses in Arizona, the ones that look like a dab of gorgeous green paint was dropped on the desert. It is typical of these courses that you can have a perfect lie one inch to the left, and an unplayable one just an inch to the right. Destiny is microscopic in Arizona, and Jack Nicklaus, who as a designer carries a discernible mean streak, made it a whole lot worse.
Day threw knockout punch after knockout punch, and thought at various times through the day that the match was his, only to see Dubuisson pull another rabbit out of the hat, chipping from lies a rattlesnake would refuse, sinking endlessly undulating putts, and in general, providing some of the most masterful “up and down” holes in recent memory. He simply wouldn’t go away, and the duel appeared as though it would last forever, going into several extra holes.
We know that Day belongs where he is, a highly ranked player worldwide. We suspect that his fortunes are going to grow even greater through the years – after all, he isn’t even thirty yet. Dubuisson, however, has made it clear that he aims to be number one in the world. I suppose a lot of brash newcomers say that, and perhaps it’s whistling by the graveyard on his part, but the Frenchman also made it clear that he’s got the game, and that he’s got the nerve. The Van de Welde curse isn’t in him, and pretty soon, we’ll know a lot more about him than we did this week.