The enigmatic, unconventional Victor Dubuisson

By Jason SobelMarch 4, 2014, 6:30 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Victor Dubuisson is 23 years old, ranked 23rd in the world and fresh off a 23-hole match-play final during which he drew favorable comparisons to the previously incomparable Seve Ballesteros and elevated his Ryder Cup roster status from possibly to probably.

If there exists a sports writing rule which states that every known fact about a subject shouldn’t be volunteered in the opening paragraph, consider it shredded.

That’s because golf’s latest emerging star is also a mystery man. He’s been called aloof and enigmatic. He readily admits that he prefers to spend time alone rather than with other people. He wears a perpetual poker face, leaving the rest of us wondering whether he’s bluffing or laying all his cards out on the table.

OK, so maybe that’s not everything we know about Dubuisson.

His last name translates in his native French to “on the bush.” As Jason Day, who withstood a few mind-bending saviors from the desert cacti (click here to see) to defeat his opponent two weeks ago, concludes, “That’s very fitting, right?”

His uncle, Hervé Dubuisson, is considered one of France’s greatest basketball players. “He was like the Kobe Bryant of France,” boasts countryman Thomas Levet.

His earliest memory of golf was the 1997 Masters, when he watched Tiger Woods lap the field by a dozen strokes and decided on the spot, days shy of his seventh birthday, that he would become a professional golfer someday.

Unlike most would-be pros, however, Dubuisson didn’t wait to grow into the role, instead taking what can only be termed a non-traditional route. In a note that won’t be listed on any Department of Education pamphlets in France anytime soon, he estimates that he left school at “10 or 12,” instead opting to pursue upper-level courses on the course.

“I was doing some work at home,” he explains, “but I was more going to the golf (course) every day.”

That answer only leads to more questions, but there are some he remains intent on leaving unanswered. His pre-tournament news conference in advance of this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship was the stuff of confusion, as if he were speaking in riddles.

Q: Did your parents try to talk you out of it?

A: Well, my parents, they – well, I was more by myself.

Q: You said when you were 12 years old, you were kind of already on your own. Can you clarify?

A: No, just no personal family questions. I don't like to think about that, sorry.

Q: Did you play any other sports as a kid?

A: I liked to play basketball, but I prefer to be on my own like to be in control (of) what I do. Basketball, it was great, but I don't really like to depend on other people.

Dubuisson first met Levet, a six-time European Tour champion and his golfing hero, when he was 14. Since then, Levet has served in a mentor role for him; although, he prefers to think of himself as an older brother type.

Though Dubuisson has confided in him about those formative years, Levet will only provide slightly more illumination.

“It was not an easy childhood,” he explains. “When you leave school at 10 or 12 and the parents aren’t much around because they need to work, it’s difficult. So you don’t want to talk about bad things. You just go with that: It was difficult.”

So was Tuesday’s news conference with the assembled media – just like every other one he’s conducted in the past.

Despite the blond locks of a movie star and the goatee of a musketeer, Dubuisson remains shy when it comes to revealing his inner feelings.

“At the start of his career,” Levet recalls, “he didn’t want to answer any questions from the press. ‘Why? I’m 400th in the world. Why do they want to interview me? I’m nobody.’ I told him that’s part of your job.

“It’s not easy for him. That exercise is very difficult for him. You know, he’s feeling the pressure more coming to [the interview room] than the first tee. He’s very sensitive and he’s just a nice guy. Sometimes when the translations are not right, he gets a little annoyed at that.”

Which leads to the last thing we’ve gleaned about Dubuisson: The man can flat-out play golf.

A former world No. 1-ranked amateur, he won last year’s Turkish Airlines Open against a field that included Woods, his original inspiration. He’s now ranked above the likes of Luke Donald, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood. And just last week, European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley called him a “99.9 percent” certainty to make this year’s team.

Not that Dubuisson had any idea.

“I didn't have the chance to talk with Paul McGinley, but it's probably because I've changed my phone number,” he surmises. “Maybe he sent me a text or something, but I didn't receive it.”

He didn’t sound disappointed or annoyed or even overly excited. It’s all part of his poker face, one which leaves Dubuisson a mystery man amongst the game’s elite.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.