Victor Dubuisson had to repel challenges from golfing heavyweights Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter to land the Turkish Airlines Open title on Sunday, but the biggest fight the Frenchman had to win was with himself.
An unheralded Dubuisson began the final round at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course on the Mediterranean coast of Antalya holding a five-stroke lead and knew he had to be mentally strong to claim the first European Tour victory of his career.
Asked if it was a tougher task battling away the demons in his head than taking on world No. 1 Woods, US Open champion Rose, Ryder Cup hero Poulter and money-list leader Henrik Stenson, the 23-year-old replied: “Fighting myself, of course.”
“I am very proud of the way I fought myself ... because it was the toughest day of my golfing life,” Dubuisson told reporters. “I played great on the front nine, but I struggled on the greens.”
“On this course level-par is a good score, but against this level of players you cannot win a tournament with a level-par score, even with a five-shot lead,” he said after leaving Woods, Rose, Poulter and Stenson trailing in his wake.
“On the back nine, I tried my best to make some birdies and I made a great putt on 17. It was one of those putts you make to make a dream come true,” he said of the 25-footer that effectively put the seal on his title triumph.
Dubuisson was rock solid on the outward half as he reeled off nine straight pars. Then, just when he needed it most, he found the inner resolve to step up a gear.
The Frenchman dropped his first shot of the day at the 14th, falling back into a three-way tie for the lead with Rose and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who were playing in the same group two holes ahead.
Welshman Donaldson aced the par-three 16th and Rose birdied the same hole to join the leader on 21-under, only to see Dubuisson hit straight back with birdies at the 15th, 17th and 18th.
Known as one of the most laid-back characters on the European Tour, Dubuisson’s two-shot victory over Donaldson has catapulted him from 108th in the world rankings and into the top 40.
Another incentive arrived at the post-round press conference when he was told the win would almost certainly secure him a ticket to the first major championship of next year, the US Masters in Augusta, Georgia.
“I did not know about this,” he said, smiling. “Playing the Masters would be a dream of course — it’s amazing what you’ve just told me. I have never played a US PGA Tour event. I really hope I will play next year if I maybe get one or two invites.”