Victor Dubuisson, the formerly anonymous Frenchman who left Tiger Woods in his dust in Turkey in November and challenged Henrik Stenson a week later in Dubai, captured the attention of The King and many of his subjects during a heroic but failed attempt to steal the WGC-Accenture World Golf Championship from a determined Jason Day.
"Can you believe this?" Arnold Palmer asked when he called in to the CBS booth as Dubuisson made one miraculous shot from the prickly cacti after another to keep the title match going through 23 holes (via PGATour):
Palmer, who will likely invite the match play runner-up to his garden party at Bay Hill in a month, was hardly the only golf star mesmerized by Dubuisson and his go-for-broke approach. After wayward approach shots on the first and second holes of overtime, Dubuisson knocked his ball out from a seemingly stymied lie against a cactus to within four feet and saved par on the first attempt and then slapped his wedge through a shrub to reach the green and card another incredible par (via PGATour):
Dubuisson’s Houdini act held the golf world in thrall, as current and former players tweeted their disbelief.
Jason Dufner, who lost to Ernie Els on Friday and whom broadcasters compared Dubuisson and his stoic demeanor to, was as animated as anyone else as he watched the drama unfold.
Blah ha... Outta the catcus. Long hair don't care.. Who cares about this TV wire. Up and down for par.— Jason Dufner (@JasonDufner) February 23, 2014
Da Bush!!!!!— Jason Dufner (@JasonDufner) February 23, 2014
From the desert, off a rock, sitting on a cactus, over the grandstand, to 30ft. Routine par.— Jason Dufner (@JasonDufner) February 23, 2014
The Black Knight weighed in on the action.
This is simply fantastic stuff!! @Vdubush is Houdini, a magician with cajones!! Incroyable!! Allez— Gary Player (@garyplayer) February 23, 2014
Graeme McDowell lost to Dubuisson on Saturday but can look forward to teaming with his fellow Euro at the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Those may be the two best escape shots I've ever seen. Allez Victor. #rydercup2014— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) February 23, 2014
And Dubuisson certainly gave U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson something to think about over the next few months.
Two of the greatest up-and/downs I have ever seen Victor!!!— Tom Watson (@TomWatsonPGA) February 24, 2014
The man who finally let an increasingly exasperated Nick Faldo ("David, you got a read on this one?"), David Feherty ("I’m seeing dead people") and the rest of the CBS/Golf Channel crew call it a day was perhaps the most impressed by Dubuisson’s efforts.
"Vic, man, he has a lot of guts," the 26-year-old Day told Golf Channel after tapping in a three-footer for birdie after the magic ran out for his opponent, who was making his debut in the match play event. ''He has a great short game -- straight out of the cactus twice. For a 23-year-old kid, he's got a lot of game. We're going to see a lot of him for years to come.''
For sure, no one saw this performance coming from the 2009 European Amateur champion, who put away Bubba Watson, McDowell, and Els to get into the finals and was three down with six holes to play and two down with two to go. But everyone settled in for a long haul in what was just the second playoff in the tourney history after Dubuisson drilled home a 15-footer for birdie on the 17th hole of regulation and made par on No. 18 to Day’s three-putt bogey.
On No. 1, the first hole of extra frames, Dubuisson launched his approach shot, which kicked off the back of the putting surface and into the same type of cholla cactus that attacked a camera man during Rory McIlroy’s first round on Thursday. While he would likely have taken an unplayable lie in stroke play, Dubuisson had to go for it on Sunday so he stepped up and took a whack, spewing hunks of cactus and catching his club on a TV cable and somehow landing his ball some three feet from the hole.
It was deja vue all over again on the next hole, when Dubuisson pulled his ball into the rocky desert, where it rested against a dead branch. Another Hail Mary and Dubuisson found the green again, eliciting a laugh and a head shake from Day (GIF via Adam Sarson)
Dubuisson’s joy ride finally came to an end on the 23rd hole, when his errant tee shot left him a tricky lie in thick rough and he failed to get up and down while Day nailed down his second PGA Tour win with a par putt.
''I'm disappointed because I made some terrible shots,'' Dubuisson said, though his new fans are more likely to remember his incredible escape artistry.
For his troubles, Dubuisson earned a special temporary exemption, which he has 60 days to claim and gives him unlimited exemptions for the rest of the tour's 2013 season and, no doubt, an audience with The King.