TOUR Insider: Spanning the globe at Cadillac
Dubuisson, Aphibarnrat just two young international players to watch at Trump National Doral
March 05, 2014
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Victor Dubuisson became a household name after his impressive short game at Dove Mountain. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
DORAL, Fla. -- Flags from all over the world dot the pairings sheet at Trump National Doral, where players from 19 countries make up the field for this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. It’s a true World Golf Championships event in every sense.
It’s also a grand stage to showcase top talents from around the globe that many might not see otherwise. Players such as Victor of the bush and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, whose game has been compared to John Daly.
Where else could you find such a world of international intrigue in the game?
Victor Dubuisson (pronounced dew-BWEE-sohn, with a literal transition being of 'the bush') nearly won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago before falling to Jason Day in a thrilling final.
But who is this quiet, shy Frenchman? The world is about to find out.
He grew up in Cannes and left school sometime around age 10 or 12, mostly because he just wanted to play golf. Whatever the viewpoint on that is -- along with the decision to live in Andorra, a tax haven in the Pyrenees bordering France and Spain -- speaks to Dubuisson’s personality.
Adds friend and mentor Thomas Levet: “It was not an easy childhood. It was difficult. Let’s just leave it at that.”
His rise in the Official World Golf Ranking has seemed anything but. “He’s so natural, it’s almost genius,” Levet said. “Sometimes he does not need to work (on his game). You will never see him on the range for hours. But he will go out and play for hours.”
Some of that was on display in Arizona with a couple of spectacular up-and-downs in his match against Day. The soft hands shouldn’t come as a surprise. His uncle, Hervé Dubuisson, was perhaps France’s greatest basketball player. “The Kobe Bryant of France,” as Levet puts it.
But Dubuisson’s rise started long ago. At 15, he played in the 2005 French Open and soon followed with victories at the 2006 French Amateur, 2008 Mexican Amateur and 2009 European Amateur.
Professionally, the climb has been just as steady for the 24-year-old. He was 106th in the Race To Dubai in 2011, 52nd a year later. The launching point came in earnest at last year’s Turkish Airlines Open, where he beat a field that included the player who inspired him to take up golf, Tiger Woods, among many of the world’s other top players.
Talent doesn’t know borders and Dubuisson has kept it going this year with respectable finishes on the PGA TOUR: 59th at the Farmers Insurance Open, 13th at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a tie for 40th at the Northern Trust Open, and then the near-win at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
“He showed his true colors back at the end of the year in Turkey,” Justin Rose said. “Funnily enough, that week there was quite a buzz about him, so it didn't surprise me what he did.”
The same could be said of Kiradech Aphibarnrat, whose stature and swing are so similar to Daly’s that the moniker stuck. Barnrat also works well with the affable 24-year-old, who grew up in Bangkok and practiced the game on a sort of par-3 course his father built around their yard.
Like Dubuisson, he was also inspired by Woods. “The first time I see Tiger he is winning week after week,” Aphibarnrat said. “Every time my dad turned on the TV on Sunday night, he was always holding the trophy. I heard he was half Thai, too.”
As Aphibarnrat grew so did his power, along with soft hands. Both propelled him up the amateur ranks. Though he qualified for the Thai national team as a 14-year-old, he was too young to play. He would soon follow with wins at the Junior World Golf Championships in 2003 and 2004 and in 2007 was on the gold medal winning team at the World University Games.
Professionally, his first victory was an 11-shot dusting at the 2009 Singha Pattaya Open. Two years later he won his first Asian Tour event, the SAIL Open, and two years after that notched his first European Tour victory at the Malaysian Open.
Dubuisson and Aphibarnrat both hope to play on the PGA TOUR full-time, and given their success so far it seems inevitable. Not that the adjustment is easy.
“Everything is different here,” says Aphibarnrat, who has been somewhat taken under John Daly’s wing when the two played together in Thailand and Hong Kong. “The weather, the grass … We’re coming from the other side of the world.”
And what a big world it is, especially when it comes to golf.