Whilst much of the attention during the Omega Dubai Desert Classic focussed on the battle between the game’s top three players, intriguingly the third round pitted the World Number One alongside the former World Amateur Number One.
For rising talent Victor Dubuisson, playing in a two-ball with Lee Westwood, the leading player on the planet, represented another positive step on his steep learning curve.
That he shot a five over par 77 was academic, it was merely the experience of pitting his wits against a player who has reached the very highest echelon of the game: senior professional against star in the making, Ryder Cup player versus Tour rookie.
Qualifying school graduate Dubuisson, is making the slow ascent through the Official World Golf Ranking, which Westwood heads. The Frenchman finished tied ninth in last week’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin energy, where he had his first encounter with Westwood in the hotel gym.
“I was on the treadmill and Lee was next to me doing his workout,” said the 20 year old. “It was weird because I was used to watching Lee on the television and then there he was beside me in the gym.
“Then today I got the chance to play with him. It was really good but I didn’t play well. For the first 14 or 15 holes I was just watching Lee and not concentrating on my own game.
“It was the first time I’ve played with a very famous player and it was with the World Number One. On the first two holes I started with two bogeys and I didn’t even realise I was two over par because I was busy watching Lee playing! I watched his shot and then played mine but I was thinking about how he would play his next shot.
“Hopefully I’ll be better next time and more used to it. If today I played with another guy – a normal player – I would have been four or five shots better, as I was losing my concentration.
“Lee was so nice to play though. When I was on the range he came up to me and said “Hi, how are you, we are playing together today”. I felt so embarrassed because it was Lee Westwood talking to me! I didn’t know what to do! He then spoke to me on the course and gave me a few tips.
“Next time I play with a big name I think I will definitely do better. Today was my first experience of playing with such a famous player, and while I did not play well it was a good experience.”
Dubuisson, who won the European Individual Amateur Champion in 2009 to top the World Amateur Rankings, admitted the occasion of playing with the top ranked professional got to him. However, it also gave him a valuable insight into what it takes to reach the golfing summit now he is among the paid ranks.
“Lee wasn’t too happy with his game but he kept the ball on the fairway and green and he showed patience. I wasn’t as patient as him. I was very nervous. I tried to feel more relaxed on the back nine but it was too late, when you are three or four over and with that wind.
“What I learned from him was that if you aren’t playing well you have to stay patient. He did that and holed some good putts on the back nine.
“There were more people watching me than I’m used to, although I don’t think there were there to watch me! What is cool here is that everyone here loves Lee. If he missed a shot the fans still encouraged him.”
With his distinctive flowing hair and a flair on the course, it won’t be long before Dubuisson is acquiring an army of fans himself.