Frenchman, Victor Dubuisson had quite a weekend for himself at the Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya, Turkey. He shot a 9-under 63 on the Montgomerie Maxx Royal to take a solid, 5-shot lead going into Sunday.
The only problem with that — from the point of view of a player trying to win his first European Tour event — is that he stirred the hornets’ nest of great players behind him. This is the tee sheet he faced Sunday morning:
9:55 – Justin Walters, Jamie Donaldson, Justin Rose
10:05 – Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods, Alejandro Canizares
10:15 – Victor Dubuisson, Ian Poulter, Raphael Jacquelin
Jamie Donaldson shot his own 63 on Sunday that included a hole-in-one, but he could only get within two shots and had to settle for 2nd. Justin Rose is the reigning U.S. Open Champion, No. 5 in the world and shot 7-under 65 to finish T3 with Tiger Woods.
Henrik Stenson is the current points leader in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai Tour Championship, the FedExCup and U.S. Tour Championship winner and No.4 in the world. With his very tender wrist, he shot a 3-under 69 which dropped him to T7. Tiger Woods is No. 1 in the world and winner of five tournaments in 2013. He shot 5-under and finished T3 with Justin Rose. Alejandro Canizares shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday to get himself so high on the starting grid, but he faded on Sunday.
And in his own pairing, Dubuisson had the irrepressible Ian Poulter, who has already put Stenson on notice that he’s going to run him down for the Tour title and shot 66, 66, 68 to get into the last group. But his final round 69 fell short and he finished T5. And finally, in that last pairing was Raphael Jacquelin, Dubuisson’s good friend, fellow Frenchman and support provider after his chances were gone in the final round.
So you’ve never won before and now you have this eclectic collection of golf’s current royalty breathing down your neck. We know now that none of them could bridge the five-stroke gap Dubuisson built for himself, but starting the day he didn’t know that. Any one of those guys was capable of throwing another 9-under at him. There had already been two of them; one from Tiger and one from Dubuisson himself.
It’s so great. As I said, I don’t realize that I just won such a big tournament. Tiger, Stenson, Justin Rose, they were all in contention with me today.
So it’s a really great feeling, and I’m really proud of what I did because it was the toughest golf day of my life.
I’m playing great the front nine; I was struggling on the green — on this course, level par is a good score but with this level of players, Tiger, Stenson, you cannot whip a tournament with a level par score, even with a five‑shot lead.
So on the back nine, I tried to do my best to make some birdies, and I had this great [33-foot] putt on 17. It’s one of those putts that you make to make a dream come true.
He was informed that this victory moved him into the Top 40 in the world — he ended up at No. 39 — and that he would now be getting into the Masters, the golden invitation all Tour pros patiently wait for:
I did not know about this (smiling). Well, playing the Masters would be — of course, it’s a dream. Today is a dream coming true, and if I played the Masters next year, it would be so great.
Does it really make me top 40 now? I didn’t know I could make such a big step in one tournament. Wow, it’s amazing what you just told me.
He was asked a very interesting question that he had an immediate answer for: what was harder on Sunday, fighting himself or fighting players like Tiger, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose?
No, fighting myself of course. I’m very proud of the way I fight myself today, because I really made a few difficult shots, I holed a few good putts for par, and you know, this putt on 17, yeah, it’s the kind of putt you make to win a big event.
And I would love to be comfortable over this putt. It was like [33 feet], left‑to‑right; I don’t like this putt, and I probably pulled it, and yet it went in.
So it’s kind of a sign, I don’t know. Yeah, it was just a little bit of luck, and kind of a sign that I had to, that I was going to win this tournament.
And he went on to birdie the par-4 17th and the par-5 18th to lock up his two-shot victory.
One of the nice things about professional golf is that there is so much respect for each other among the players. So when a friend is on the verge of winning his first tournament — something very hard to do — and you’ve fallen out of contention, you offer your friend words of encouragement to help him keep his thinking, his “way of being,” under control. That’s what Raphael Jacquelin did for his friend:
He gave me a lot of encouragement on the last few holes. He was in contention with me at the beginning of the round, so of course, he was not helping me.
But in the end he did speak to me a few times on the last three holes, and it did help me a lot because sometime I would just go on my inside, you know. When I feel stress and I have some pressure on me, I just close, you know, myself. And the fact that Raphael spoke to me a few times did help me.
Winning on any of the major world tours is a life-altering experience. Winning just opens so many doors, particularly when your world ranking points suddenly zip you up the totem pole, even into sponsor exemptions into PGA Tour events. Would he take them?
Yeah, I don’t know what I got with this win at the moment, but I’m top 40 in the world now, so it will change my schedule. I will focus on big tournaments and probably change my way to practice because I will have to play probably more events next year and do a lot more traveling, long travel.
So I think this winter, I need to prepare very well for this and to practice a lot.
We can only hope that the changes he plans on making in his practice regimen don’t negatively alter the winning package he’s already put together.
In the meantime, he has to finish up this year with the Tour championship in Dubai next week. When you’re playing well, you can’t wait to play again. Is he looking forward to it?
I’m really looking forward to next week (big smile). It’s a course I like. And after this win, you know, as I said, I don’t really realize that I won such a big event. But tomorrow, when I will wake up, I will probably have more confidence in myself. And I’m really looking forward to be in Dubai and to start practice on Tuesday.
The sheer joy he must be feeling every time he allows himself to think of what just happened to him. And it makes us smile too.
What a great game.