British and European golf has been caught up by the euphoria surrounding the talent of Rory McIlroy in the last few years. McIlroy arguably possesses the most complete game since Tiger Woods burst onto the scene in the mid-1990s and his two major victories in 2011 and 2012 were testament to his growing prowess at the top of the world standings.
Yet, 2013 by the Northern Irishman’s standard were poor as he became distracted by sagas and relationships off the course which transferred to his play. As a result, there is now a new European player on everyone’s lips, threatening to ruin McIlroy’s supposed unrivalled reputation.
Victor Dubuisson was relatively unheard of until his breakthrough European tour win in Turkey last autumn where he held off the likes of Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter to claim victory. Most recently, the Frenchman continued his impressive performances at the WGC Accenture Match Play in Arizona, defeating a host of the world’s best before eventually falling to Australian Jason Day in a final which went to the 5th extra hole. His performance propelled him up to number 23 in the world and simultaneously guaranteed him entry to this year’s Masters at Augusta in April.
It has been more the manner than the extent of his victories that has attracted so much of the 23 year old’s attention. Many have heralded him as the most exciting European talent since Sergio Garcia two decades ago and his impressive amateur career, which included a spell as World Number 1 in 2009, highlights his continued progression at every stage of the game. Whilst he remains relatively reserved and introverted when it comes to interviews, his on course personality exudes flamboyance and a swagger that has drawn comparisons to Nick Faldo.
Nevertheless, his most honoured comparisons have to be his relative similarities to the late Seve Ballesteros, who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2011. The Spaniard epitomised the no-nonsense, stylish side of golf which no other player since has quite managed to replicate. Dubuisson, however, with his magical performances in the match play in Arizona, is certainly doing his best to imitate Ballesteros. The Frenchman pulled off several miraculous chip shots during this tournament, instigating the understandable comparisons with the man widely regarded as the best short game player. Dubuisson’s combination of a strong and accurate long game with an unrivalled short game regularly allowing him to turn three shots into two is a recipe for success which may bring him joy for many years to come.
He leads the European Ryder Cup standings and European captain Paul McGinley has already bookmarked him as a certainty to make his competition debut at Gleneagles later this year. One thing is for certain, his technical flair will ensure he remains in the golfing limelight for the foreseeable future, with major success a distinct possibility if recent performances are anything to go by. At 23 he has his whole career ahead of him and an exciting rivalry with McIlroy in the next 10 years seems more than likely to develop.