Joy of Golf: Viva la France, as golf witnesses a new revolution

Joy Chakravarty 17:36 22/01/2015
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Pride of place: Victor Dubuisson is the highest ranked French player in the world at No17.

Call it the modern French Revolution. As a nation, they are the flavour of the golfing world right now, with so many making news in recent times.

Obviously, we have got to start with the 22-year-old Gary Stal, who showed an exceptional ability to handle pressure in winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last week.

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It really wasn’t a case of Stal benefiting from Martin Kaymer’s largesse. There were others who could have taken advantage, including world No1 Rory McIlroy and the impressive 22-year-old Belgian Thomas Pieters, who was right behind Kaymer for the first three days.

There was also another Frenchman in the mix – the world No17 Victor Dubuisson. The 24-year-old showed once again why he is so special when he finished tied-fourth despite arriving in Abu Dhabi on Thursday morning and checking into his hotel only at 2am. 

Alexander Levy is ranked No52 in the world.

Apparently, Dubuisson had gone through stomach surgery and did not play golf at all for five weeks over the Christmas and New Year break. He started hitting balls the week before Abu Dhabi and played his first tournament round without the benefit of any practice round. Well…it took him just two rounds to get into the groove. Three-under par after 36 holes, Dubuisson then shot a 64 and 67 over the weekend.

Alexander Levy, who is now world No52, is the third young Frenchman who is making his presence felt. He won two tournaments on the European Tour in 2014 and is on the verge of breaking into the top-50 of the world rankings that would guarantee him starts in all four majors this year. 
And then there is Romain Wattel, who closed his 2014 on the European Tour with eight top-11 finishes in his last nine starts and now sits just one place behind Stal at world No104.

Romain Wattel is close to breaking into the world top 100.

It’s not just the main tour where they are looking good. At the Challenge Tour Grand Final, which was held last November at Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai Festival City, French players made it a 1-2 finish with Benjamin Hebert winning and Jerome Lando Casanova in second.

That’s not all, two of their compatriots – Cyril Bouniol and Edouard Espana – also finished inside the top 10. When that tournament finished, there were five Frenchman in the top 20 of the Challenge Tour ranking, thus securing their European Tour cards for 2015.

And with the 2018 Ryder Cup being hosted by the French, I don’t think this upward trend is going to dip anytime soon.

It’s a cynical world

Last week wasn’t a very good one for the physical well-being of professional golfers. 

First, there was the shocking story of Robert Allenby being abducted, robbed and beaten up in Hawaii, and then Tiger Woods having his tooth knocked out while watching girlfriend Lindsey Vonn secure her record 63rd World Cup alpine skiing win in Italy.

But what was even more shocking was the kind of scepticism that the media and fans showed to Allenby and Woods’ version of what happened to them. It seems being abducted and roughed up, and getting your tooth extracted by a hyperactive cameraman is not plausible enough explanation. 

We really are living in a strange world. It’s just amazing how we refuse to take people at face value.

Perhaps it has got something to do with the fact that we have been lied to so often. In Woods’ case, all kinds of jokes are already doing the rounds, obviously inspired by the 2009 accident and all that happened in his past.

But Allenby has had a pretty clean record so far. His account of what happened that night is not the most lucid one, but the Australian suspected his drink in the bar was spiked and he had no clear recollection of what happened for almost two-and-a-half hours after that.

Allenby, who is still feeling the pain from concussions behind his head and scrape wounds on the face, has withdrawn from this week’s Humana Challenge, but is feeling more hurt because so many are not believing his side of the story.

Australian golfer Robert Allenby is still recovering after being abducted and will not take part in this week's Humana Challege.

In a text message to the Golf Channel, he rued: “It’s such a shame that people are focusing on whether the story is true. I say you only have to look at me to see the truth.”

As for Woods, he has maintained his silence, but conjecturing is being done on the basis that the former world No1 did not report the incident to the Games organisers, and there was no sign of blood on him after the incident.

Quote of the Week
“Passionate. Determined. A fun-loving guy who loves his family and hanging out. I’m confident and have a belief in myself and if you don’t have that belief, you’re never going to succeed. Off the course I am completely different. I’m a jokester. I pull a lot of pranks on my mother-in-law. She’s an easy target.”
– Patrick Reed, when asked to describe himself.

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