Newspaper article International New York Times

Inspired by Woods, Frenchman Climbs Ranks ; Houdini-Like Recoveries by Dubuisson Evoke Memories of Ballesteros

Newspaper article International New York Times

Inspired by Woods, Frenchman Climbs Ranks ; Houdini-Like Recoveries by Dubuisson Evoke Memories of Ballesteros

Article excerpt

Victor Dubuisson, the runner-up at the World Golf Championships match-play final, has risen to No. 23 in the world rankings.

French basketball royalty is in Victor Dubuisson's blood. His uncle Herve was a prolific scorer for the French national team and participated in the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Dubuisson was born with his uncle's nimble hands but patterned his career after a professional athlete cut from different cloth.

Dubuisson was moved to dedicate his life to golf before his seventh birthday, after watching the telecast of Tiger Woods's victory in the 1997 Masters. What was it about the 21-year-old Woods, who won by 12 strokes after playing his first nine in 40, that transfixed Dubuisson, a tennis-playing, hoops-dabbling child of Cannes?

"Everybody was saying, O.K., Tiger, he made a good start as a pro, but now that it's an important tournament, his first major, he's not going to do very well, maybe because of the pressure," Dubuisson said. "And then he just completely broke the course; he broke the scoring record."

Patterning himself after Woods, Dubuisson, 23, fashioned himself into a golfer who thrives under pressure and drives the ball long enough to inspire the next generation. In the last year he has risen more than 100 spots in the world rankings, to No. 23. Last November in Turkey, he defeated a field that included Woods for his first European Tour victory.

Last month, Dubuisson stole the spotlight at the World Golf Championships match-play final in Arizona, twice getting up and down from seemingly unplayable positions before succumbing to the Australian Jason Day on the fifth extra hole.

His Houdini-like recoveries from the desert's native area drew comparisons to Seve Ballesteros, golf's great escape artist, and prompted Ballesteros's son, Javier, to tweet, "It doesn't matter who won, Victor Dubuisson is my new hero."

Of all the hazards Dubuisson has had to learn to negotiate over the years, the spotlight might be the trickiest. …

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