Day triumphs in the desert, but Dubuisson steals the show

By: | Mon 24 Feb 2014 | Comments

Jason Day

Post by sports writer Derek Clements

AND then there were four left standing. Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Victor Dubuisson and, old enough to be their father and desperate to prove he's still the Daddy, Ernie Els, aged 44.

Accenture, the long-suffering sponsors of the World Matchplay, may have preferred it had Jordan Spieth beaten Els in the quarter-final to leave a semi-final line-up comprising four of the best young players in the game. Before the event had even started at Dove Mountain on Wednesday, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, three of the biggest draws in the game, had all withdrawn.

As it turned out, they had a sensational final, Day winning on the 23rd extra hole after a never-say-die performance from Dubuisson. The Frenchman won the last two holes to take the match to sudden death.

The 23 year old kept the match alive with miraculous shots from cacti following errant approaches on the first two extra Jason Day / Victor Dubuissonholes, saving par both times, and had a 20 foot putt to win on the 22nd, which came up agonisingly short.

His short game was magnificent all day, but on the 23rd hole his chip from thick rough ran way past the flag, and Day’s par was enough to clinch the title.
Day, from Australia, is 26 and should already have won The Masters and US Open. He has no weaknesses, so it may come as a surprise to learn that he has just one tournament victory to his name - the 2010 Byron Nelson championship.

Fowler's career has stuttered and stumbled, but he is back on track. Dubuisson plays with a freedom that is rare today and is on his way to becoming the best golfer France has already produced. As for Els, well what is there left to say about the Big Easy? He struggled to get through his early matches but was superb in beating Spieth.

And so Fowler took on Day in the first semi-final, while Els faced Dubuisson in the other semi-final.

There had been a serenity about Day all week, and it continued as he played the first eight holes in three under par to go three up.He lost the ninth but won the 11th. Then Fowler took the 12th and 13th to reduce the deficit to one. This only stung Day into action and, with threes on the 15th and 16th holes, he reached the final with a 3&2 victory.

Els started his match against Dubuisson like a train and was three up after four holes. It stayed that way until the young Frenchman birdied the eighth and ninth. He squared it with a birdie at the 11th and went one up with another birdie at the next. Els pulled it back to all square at the 14th, but a determined Dubuisson went back in front with a birdie at the next. Could he hold on?

The South African levelled affairs at the 16th but when he was unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the 18th, Dubuisson's par was good enough to take him through to face Day. And exhausted Els, meanwhile, was looking more like the Grand-Daddy as he prepared for his meaningless consolation match with Fowler.

Make no mistake about this - for Dubuisson, winning $1.5m would be a life-changing event, quite apart from securing his place in Europe's Ryder Cup team. "It feels great (to win), especially because I was not feeling comfortable," he said. "I didn't sleep very well and when I arrived at the course I realised I was in the semi-final of a World Golf Championship event against Ernie Els.

"I am a big fan of him, always watching him winning majors, and I was not as comfortable as the round before. That's why I had a poor start.I made three or four very bad shots and then I tried to focus again on my game and knew I had to play my best golf. That's what I did and proved my mentality is very solid."

Day was a warm favourite to win the final and was handed the first two holes, Dubuisson finding an unplayable lie at the first and taking four to get down from the back of the second. It seemed that his exertions were catching up with him. But a birdie at the third and a fighting par at the fourth saw him all square again.

He then lost the sixth, seventh and ninth to fall three behind. And now, surely, his race was run. He holed a six-footer to half the 10th and was hanging on by his fingertips.

The Frenchman birdied the par-five 13th after Day found trouble from the tee, but he was still two down with five to play. It looked like Dubuisson was going to get another one back at the 15th, but Day holed a crucial 10-foot putt. Two up, three to play.

Both players had birdie putts at the par-three 16th, but the hole was halved. Two up, two to play.

Dubuisson drove into a bunker on the 17th but hit a wonderful recovery and holed a 10-foot putt to win the hole. He couldn't, could he?

Day hit approach at the 18th to the back of the green, leaving him a horrible downhill putt. He had opened the door for his opponent, who could not take advantage as he tugged his approach into a greenside bunker. Putted putted fully 10 feet beyond the hole, so if Dubuisson could get up and down in two, they would be heading for extra holes.

You guessed it. Day missed. Dubuisson made par. All square, but all the momentum was with the man from France. And then came those extra holes.

Dubuisson's consolation was a cheque for $900,000 and enough world ranking points to ensure he will be starting all four majors this season - and may even fancy his chances of winning one of them.

Fowler won a high-quality consolation match, beating Els on the 19th hole.

Image Credit - Golf Channel Facebook page

Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]

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