Victor “Houdini” Dubuisson almost won the Word Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship yesterday at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona, which is near Tucson. That is, after his finals performance Sunday, this 23-year old Frenchman should add “Houdini” as his middle name. Why? He was about 3 down with five holes to play, so I turned off the TV figuring Victor’s opponent–the fledgling 26-year old Australian Jason Day, who married an American, lives in the U.S., and appears poised to become a superstar–had this match in the bag.
When I turned the TV back on, these two handsome dudes were playing their first hole of sudden death–the 19th hole. Victor-about-to-become-Houdini had just airmailed that green with his iron approach shot. The ball settled slightly above ground in a very gnarly-looking cholla (pronounced CHOYYA) cactus with all its countless number of thorns that work like fish hooks.
Folks, I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, about 120 miles north of that tournament. So, I know desert golf. Cholla looks kinda pretty, but it aint. Don’t ever even barely touch one of those wicked things. Tourists, especially little kids–all of whom we residents call “Snowbirds”–do it all the time. And they live to regret it. Believe me, the cholla is the worst cactus to mess with here in the Sonoran Desert. But hold on! Dubuisson means “the bush” in French. Is Victor Dubuisson a master of freeing himself from a bushy cactus?
Jason Day’s ball was safely on the green in regulation two strokes. I think he was smiling on the inside. In contrast, the very stoic-looking Victor plays his game like his comic countryman Peter Sellers, never cracking a smile. And Victor was vying to become the first-ever Frenchman to win on the PGA Tour. He addressed his ball without injuring himself, did not ground his club, holding his clubhead aloft, and very quickly took a swipe at that ghastly-looking cholla. Cactus flew every which way, but the ball bee-lined low, skidded on desert wasteland, bounded through the rough grass, rolled up on the green and stopped an amazing four feet from the hole. The TV cameraman then did a close-up on that chunk of cholla. The Bushman became Victor of the cholla.
Viewers couldn’t believe their eyes, especially the humorous and often outrageous Tour pro and TV announcer Gary McCord. He used to be a real amateur magician, and he said he had never seen any tricks performed like that on the links. To add more touch to the drama, Victor walked up on the green, and with his club he knocked a big chunk of cholla cactus with its prickly spikes off of the sole of his golf shoe unto the green.
Victor made his par putt, so the match remained all square as the players proceeded to the 20th hole. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Victor had more drama up his sleeve. He badly pulled his approach iron, and the ball again rested in the dreary desert where only rattlesnakes, scorpions, and demons desire to dwell. But again, Victor quickly sized up the situation, seized the moment, and dug the ball out of the dirt as it scampered unto the lush green carpet and settled ten feet from the hole. The cameras then turned on Jason Day, who was smiling and shaking his head. In the interview after the tournament, he said that at that moment he was thinking it was going to be impossible for him to beat this magic man. Again, Victor drained his par putt and the match proceeded to the 21st hole.
But Victor Houdini finally ran out of tricks, just like the real Houdini did. Jason Day won on the 23rd hole for his second PGA Tour win. He had said after his quarterfinals win on Saturday that he was “sick and tired” of having so many second and third place finishes in recent years, some of them in major championships, and that he wanted to win. He finally did. In his TV interview after the win, he commended Victor for his gallant effort and said the golfing public was going to hear more about him.
I thought the TV interview of Victor was rather comical in itself. He stoically rambled with his garbled English about his several missed opportunities he had during the regulation play of the 18-hole match, yet he never mentioned his Houdini heroics. The interviewer had to pry that out of him. It was as if his magic was normal for him, just as normal as the handcuffed Houdini getting out of those chained cages under the water. Are we going to hear and see more of Victor “Houdini” Dubuisson?