A Puzzling Enigma Wrapped up in a Mysterious Paradox

By: Tony Dear

It was pretty obvious from Monday morning’s newspapers the world’s press had had little joy finding out much about Victor Dubuisson in the hours that followed his amazing performance in the final of the WGC Accenture Match Play, which he eventually lost to Australia’s Jason Day after 23 holes.

Most had to rely on quotes from other European Tour players, in particular fellow Frenchman Thomas Levet who, quite matter of factly, said Dubuisson has the game to become the best player in the world. Tweets from a host of past greats and current stars – Tom Watson, Gary Player, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell – who had watched the 23-year-old make two inconceivable up-and-downs from in amongst the rocks, cacti and TV cables during extra holes, also filled some valuable space.

Dubuisson’s reasonable but far from fluent English didn’t make it easy for reporters to uncover what they would have liked, but by far the more confounding obstacle was the 23-year-old’s quiet, unassuming nature. “Victor’s very shy, very sensitive,” Levet told Reuters. “It is hard for him. He does not want to tell too much about himself.”

From under his Titleist visor and from somewhere within his dandy, musketeer beard, Dubuisson did utter how impressed he was with Day’s game and nerve, and that he had hit those two unfeasible desert hacks feeling as if he had nothing to lose, but not much else.

Likewise, you don't learn a great deal about the man from reading the transcript of his champion's press conference at last November's Turkish Airlines Open, his maiden victory on the Likewise, you don’t learn a great deal about the man from reading the transcript of his champion’s press conference at last November’s Turkish Airlines Open, his maiden victory on the European Tour. Besides a few lines about how well he had composed himself on the back nine, how his playing partner Raphaël Jacquelin had helped him down the stretch, and how he might change his schedule now that he was in the world’s top 40, he didn’t exactly divulge his innermost feelings or betray any emotion.

Levet insists his countryman isn’t actually the loner many assume him to be, adding that he likes going out to dinner with other Frenchmen on Tour – Jacquelin, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Gregory Havret, Julien Quesne. And, in Arizona, Dubuisson did describe himself as “but a simple person,” though that assessment was contradicted by his former swing coach Stéphane Damiano who said he had a strong character “but a complicated one.”

The most commonly-used word in the press to describe Dubuisson’s manner was “enigmatic,” which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “Mysterious; Hard to know.” In today’s highly-connected, constantly-updating world, enigmatic people don’t stay mysterious or hard to know for very long, especially if they’re enigmatic and famous. You can find out virtually anything you want to know about a person with a few well-navigated clicks of a mouse, even anonymous folk at the end of your anonymous street.

Play like he did last week at next week’s WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral, and you’ll probably feel like you’ve known Victor Dubuisson for years. Details about his childhood and how he developed into such a fine player will probably emerge. We’ll have it confirmed if he did indeed leave school at the age of 10 to play golf (does school in France start so early and finish so late you can’t do both?), and we’ll know if what he said about playing every single day since he left school was true or not. We’ll no doubt have heard more from Damiano about his formative years too.

We might even get a peek into his life at home – who are his parents, does he have siblings, a girlfriend . . . or boyfriend, does he love soccer like everyone else on the European Tour and, if so, which team does he support, and what is this cinema-goer’s favorite movie – a question he couldn’t answer in Arizona.

Let’s hope we don’t though. It surely can’t happen – the internet won’t let it – but let’s hope enigmatic, mysterious, hard-to-know Victor Dubuisson remains enigmatic, mysterious and hard to know for a lot longer. It’s time we had another unconventional Frenchman illuminate the sometimes repetitious world of pro golf. Jean Van de Velde set the ball rolling at Carnoustie in 1999 when he scored the most disturbing triple-bogey in the Open Championship’s history. A boring long-iron off the tee, lily-livered lay-up short of the burn, halfhearted wedge to the middle of the green, and a panicky three-putt for an ugly double-bogey six on the 72nd hole would have won him the Claret Jug. But crazy Jean managed to make a seven, lose the resulting playoff, then return to the course five months later for a spoof video in which he played the hole with just his putter. Would Hogan have done that do you think?

At the Open Championship at Muirfield three years later, the slightly-less-crazy-but-still-plenty-eccentric Levet hoisted Ernie Els into the air after losing to the South African in extra holes. It was all over in a couple of seconds but still, it was fairly irregular.

Dubuisson might not have either of his compatriots’ extravagant natures, but his does appear a unique and curious personality – one most would sincerely hope never gets compromised, diluted, or altered by fame and the demands of TV. It would be great, would it not, if we knew as little about him in five years’ time as we do now.

One thing we do know about Victor Dubuisson though, is that he is 99.99 percent certain to be representing Europe at the Ryder Cup in September having earned nearly 849,000 points for his win in Turkey, almost 385,000 for his third-place finish in Dubai the following week, 116,000 following a tie for fifth in Durban, South Africa in January, and over 660,000 for his runner-up spot in Tucson.

Dubuisson is over 536,000 points ahead of second-place Thomas Bjorn on the European team’s points list from, which the first four qualify automatically. And he’s currently third on the world points list from which the top five qualify (captain Paul McGinley will have three picks).

How he fares at Gleneagles really is anyone’s guess right now because the Ritz-Carlton GC at Dove Mountain is very different than the PGA Centenary Course even though both were designed by Jack Nicklaus, and Ryder Cup pressure is very different to Accenture Match Play pressure.

If he only socializes with Frenchmen, will another one have to qualify, or would McGinley be forced to pick one for Dubuisson to feel comfortable in the foursomes and four-balls? Or could he pair up successfully with an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scot, a Spaniard or a Swede?

That remains to be seen. As does how far Victor Dubuisson can go in the career he apparently chose for himself before he’d even become a teenager. So what does the future hold? Where will his precocious talent take him?

Hmm, hard to know.

Tony Dear is an Englishman living in Bellingham, Wash. In the early 1990s he was a member of the Liverpool University golf team which played its home matches at Royal Liverpool GC. Easy access to Hoylake made it extremely difficult for him to focus on Politics, his chosen major. After leaving Liverpool, he worked as a golf instructor at a club just south of London where he also made a futile attempt at becoming a 'player.' He moved into writing when it became abundantly clear he had no business playing the game for a living. A one-time golf correspondent of the New York Sun, Tony is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, the Pacific Northwest Golf Media Association and the Golf Travel Writers Association. He is a multi-award winning journalist, and edits his own website at www.bellinghamgolfer.com.