Splitting up Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in this year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles might just be an option for skipper Paul McGinley following Victor Dubuisson’s incredible performance in the WGC-Accenture Match Play at Dove Mountain.
The Ulster pair have gleaned two and a half points from their six matches together in the last two showdowns with the United States. But if McDowell, as expected, earns his place in McGinley’s line up, he saw enough of the new leader of the European Ryder Cup Points List in Tucson to know they’d make a formidable partnership in Scotland.
Dubuisson ended McDowell’s miraculous run in the desert with a one-up quarter-final win that was characterised by the kind of short game magic and cool under pressure that is crucial in Ryder Cup combat.
"He’s going to be a massive part of the Ryder Cup team this year and I am hoping to be there with him and maybe get a foursomes game with him," McDowell said after his defeat to the 23-year old, who went on to produce some incredible recoveries from the desert to take Jason Day to the 23rd in the final having coming back from three down after seven holes to beat Ernie Els one up on the semis.
McDowell confessed that his putting let him down when he needed it most but he had no complaints about his defeat after watching the 23-year old from Cannes get up and down for par on the last three greens to close him out.
"His short game was very, very good coming down the stretch especially," McDowell said. "The pitch he hit from left of 17, I definitely had the better of the two lies. He played a fantastic pitch shot there.
"And the one on the last, what a great touch that was. He's got that little bit of European flair. He's the first really, really exciting player that France has produced in a few years. And I think he's one to watch.
"I was a good game but he’s a very cool customer. It was just some bad putting that got me in the end because I had a funny week on the greens.
"I didn’t a lot until I had to, so overall, I would call it an average week on the greens. I had chances to get ahead in the match but he’s a really cool customer and a quality player."
Having come from behind three times to make the last eight — he beat Gary Woodland at the 19th, Hideki Matsuyama at the last and Hunter Mahan at the 21st — McDowell did not stand on a tee with a lead at Dove Mountain until his 61st hole of the week.
He won it too, going two up on Dubuisson after three but found himself all square with three to play, lipped out for par at the 16th to fall behind and saw the Frenchman hang for the win with gutsy par saves at the 17th and 18th.
His next outing comes in this week’s Honda Classic, where he joins McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Masters champion Adam Scott at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens before heading to Donald Trump’s newly revamped TPC Blue Monster at Doral for the WGC - Cadillac Championship.
"What do I take away from this week? Just some good swings under pressure," said McDowell, who was ninth at the Honda Classic and third behind Woods at Doral last year. "It highlighted some of the areas I need to work on in my game but things are good. I am really happy where my game is at.
"I drove it well this week. I have a new Srixon driver in the bag and I was definitely getting a little more air time with it. My short iron play was very good, short game was very good.
"My putting was just in and out. But overall, it was a great workout this week Great work out at Pebble So I am really looking forward to the Honda Classic. I can’t wait."
Day defeated Rickie Fowler 3 and 2 to square off against Dubuisson in the final at Dove Mountain.
The Australian was three up after 12 and two up with two to play but Dubuisson made an amazing recovery to force extra holes.
First he made birdie from a fairway bunker at the 17th to take the match to the 18th, where he got up and down from greenside sand for a winning par after Day had three-putted.
At the first extra hole, Day looked dead and buried when he flew the green into the cactus.
According to Day, on course commentator David Feherty saw the lie and told him, "he's unplayable."
"On good," Day recalled saying. But he was stunned to see Dubuisson hack his back out of the cactus, through the rough to four feet.
At the second play off hole, the ninth, Dubuisson hooked his approach into the desert again but somehow managed to slash it onto the green and make a seven footer for a half.
At the 21st — the 10th — Dubuisson missed from 11 feet and Day from eight to send the match to the 14th, where the man from Cannes had a 20 footer for victory but came up short.
It all then ended at the driveable 15th, the 23rd hole of the first final to go into sudden death since Jeff Maggert beat Andrew Magee in the inaugural event in 1999.
Dubuisson carved his drive into deep rough right of the green.
"He muttered 'dead' under his breath," Day said.
The Australian's tee shot finished up just off the green and after watching Dubuisson slash his 30 feet past the pin to the back fringe, he chip to four feet and then drilled home the winning putt after his opponent had failed with his long distance birdie try.
The Frenchman took runner-up prize money of $906,000 (€660,000) and a lead of more than 500,000 points over Thomas Bjorn in the European Ryder Cup Points List.