WGC Match Play: The Great Escapes
By Torleif Sorenson on 2/24/14
The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship isn't considered one of the four major championships in men's professional golf, but Sunday's final between Australia's Jason Day and France's Victor Dubuisson had all the late drama of a Herculean major championship battle.
Jason DayComing into the WGC-Match Play, the 26-year-old Australian was already a star, sitting at 11th in the Official World Golf Ranking. To get to the final, Day defeated Thorbjørn Oleson 2-up, Billy Horschel in a 22-hole overtime match, George Coetzee 3 and 1, 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen 2 and 1, then held off Rickie Fowler 3 and 2 in one of two Sunday morning semi-finals.
Victor DubuissonThe 23-year-old Frenchman from Cannes actually left school when he was ten years old (!) to concentrate on golf. After a successful amateur career, he turned pro after the 2010 Open Championship and qualified for the Euro Tour later that year. To get to the Match Play final, Dubuisson took down Kevin Streelman 5 and 4, Peter Hanson 3 and 1, and then went through three major champions. The Frenchman defeated Bubba Watson 1-up, Graeme McDowell 1-up, then four-time major champ Ernie Els 1-up in the other Sunday morning semi-final.
It seems amazing that Dubuisson even made it past Els; the Frenchman said he slept only one hour Saturday night. This may have been reflected in the Final as Day never trailed. But on the other hand, Day had never trailed over his final 53 holes at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain.
What a DayThe Aussie went 1-up at the 6th when Dubuisson missed a par-saver, then won the 7th with an 18-footer for bird. Day went 3-up when Dubuisson hooked his approach shot to the left into a cluster of rocks.
Amazingly, Day didn't win another hole until the very end.
Dubuisson crept back by chipping to less than two feet at 15, while Day couldn't get a 24-footer to fall. At 15, Dubuisson drove the green, while Day went to the right rough. At 17, the Frenchman drove into a bunker, but put a remarkable recovery from the sand to 13 feet. Day hit into the right rough again, then couldn't coax home a 20-footer. His lead down to 1-up, Day headed to the 18th, where his approach shot almost 70 feet past the flagstick. Day putted to 9 feet, then Dubuisson hit another great bunker shot, which stopped four feet short of the jar. Day's 9-footer to win stopped short, and he flipped his putter in frustration. Playing his 36th hole of the day on just one hour of sleep, Dubuisson sank the four footer to send the match to overtime.
On the 19th and 20th holes, Dubuisson hit two of the most remarkable recovery shots ever seen on Tour:
After the Frenchman's second great escape of the day, Day could only smile and laugh at his fortune. Meanwhile, the Twitter-verse was lighting up like a Christmas tree:
Neither player could capitalize at the 21st and 22nd holes. On the 23rd, Dubuisson's magic touch failed him when his pitch shot from the right rough flew to the opposite edge of the green. Day pitched to four feet, and it was the Aussie who made the final "great escape" of the day:
Among those who complimented Day on his technique on the fifth playoff hole were Day's good friend James Wisniewski of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets and Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers:
What ChangesDay joins fellow Aussie Adam Scott in the OWGR top five. Likewise, Dubuisson moves up to 23rd. The Frenchman will also be in the Masters Tournament in April. During his interview with Dubuisson, CBS's David Feherty dropped some pretty broad hints to PGA Tour tournament organizers, campaigning for them to issue some sponsor exemptions to the Frenchman.
Meanwhile, Jason Day made a strong case for a golfer having the experience of high-pressure match play under his/her belt:
Some people say that in professional sports, nobody ever remembers who finished second. But Victor Dubuisson's name will probably be remembered by golf fans alongside Rocco Mediate and Jean Van De Velde. The difference is that Dubuisson is just now emerging onto the golf scene; his first European Tour victory came this past November at the Turkish Airlines Open.
On this particular Sunday in February, Victor Dubuisson may not have been able to outlast Jason Day after one hour of sleep and 41 holes of pressure-cooker golf. But this guy is clearly on an upward trajectory.
As is Jason Day.
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