Over three days of competition, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship field has been winnowed down from 64 golfers to eight. The remaining competitors are a who’s who of the sport’s superstars: Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth, Graeme McDowell — and another guy.
Meet Victor Dubuisson, the best thing to come out of Cannes since the eponymous film festival. His unlikely performance this week might just be worthy of the Palme d’Or.
Dubuisson continued his march through Match Play on Friday, topping Bubba Watson 1 up and advancing to today’s quarterfinals. He’ll face McDowell, who defeated 2012 champion Hunter Mahan in 21 holes.
That Dubuisson, 23, is here at all is shocking. The Frenchman had never taken part in a match play event as a pro before this week. Not that it has slowed him down: Dubuisson, the No. 7 seed in the Sam Snead Bracket, has yet to trail in his three matches this week. In fact, he has led outright except for two holes. Dubuisson trounced Kevin Streelman 5 and 4 in Wednesday’s first round, and beat Peter Hanson 3 and 1 in Thursday’s round-of-32 match.
“He’s obviously in the form of his life right now,” McDowell said.
He won Friday by out-Bubba-ing Bubba. He nearly matched the big-hitting Watson off the tees, averaging 304.7 yards to the lefty’s 307.2. Dubuisson was more consistent than his American counterpart, too, though neither played what would be considered stellar golf.
Dubuisson shot more bogeys (three) than birdies (two), and finished the round one stroke over par. Watson was worse, firing five bogeys compared to four birdies.
“We missed, like, all our birdies,” Dubuisson said. “We had maybe five or six birdie opportunities, and both of us missed them.”
Dubuisson struck early, making par on holes No. 1 and 2 to take a 2 up lead. He led 1 up at the turn, and was 2 up through 12 and 3 up through 14. Watson birdied Nos. 15 and 17 to pull to within 1 down but missed the green on his approach shot on 18. The two halved the hole, giving Dubuisson the match.
For the Frenchman, winning was a matter of staying steady in stressful situations.
“We didn’t play very well today, both of us,” he said, “but I managed to save some great pars to win and to stay ahead of the match.”
He’ll face an opponent, McDowell, who continues to defy the odds. The Northern Ireland star rallied from 2 down through 16 holes to tie Mahan, one of America’s top match play golfers, then beat him on their third sudden-death hole. The late rally is becoming a habit for “G-Mac,” who topped Gary Woodland and Hideki Matsuyama in his first two matches after trailing late.
“I don’t think I’ve ever experience anything kind of like this in match play,” McDowell said. “For a guy to have never led a match in three matches and to win all three of them, it’s ridiculous, really. Things happen in this tournament.”
Today, the Man Who Never Leads will face The Guy Who Never Trails. The winner will earn a spot in the final four.
“I just have to keep playing well,” Dubuisson said, “and if you can get some great shots, you win.”
Saturday's tee times
|Tee time||Player (seed)||Player (seed)|
|10:05 a.m.||Louis Ooshtuizen (32)||Jason Day (8)|
|10:20 a.m.||Jim Furyk (20)||Rickie Fowler (53)|
|11:45 a.m.||Ernie Els (31)||Jordan Spieth (10)|
|Noon||Graeme McDowell (14)||Victor Dubuisson (27)|