Victor Dubuisson stared down from the dais with a look of quiet hatred. He plainly abhorred a public inquisition in the same manner that an eremitic Howard Hughes once loathed cutting his fingernails. Why, this Greta Garbo of golf was asked, did he have such a toxic relationship with the French press?
"It's only one golf magazine I have a problem with," he replied, shuffling nervously. "Unfortunately, it's the biggest one in France."
The smouldering Victor, you see, resents even the slightest incursion into his private life. When he reached the final of this year's Accenture Match Play in Arizona, he was pressed on his distinctly unconventional formative years, which included leaving full-time education before he was even old enough to start high school.
"I was 10, 12," Dubuisson said, hesitantly. "I was doing some work but I was going to golf every day." Did his parents seek to talk him out of it? "Well, I was more by myself." He was on his own at 12? Could he clarify? "Sorry, no personal questions. I don't like to think about that."
His traumatised look begged far more questions than it answered. Even Dubuisson's compatriot and mentor, Thomas Levet, who is encouraging him to communicate more vividly, has been reluctant to shed more light on his childhood, saying: "I know his family story, but let's not talk about bad things."
The sum of what we know is that he grew up in Cannes, refining his golfing craft at Royal Mougins, and that his uncle Hervé was France's finest ever basketball player. The decision to leave is understood to have been the consequence of a dispute with his father, an eminent banker and also - according to the very few contemporary accounts - a far from stay-at-home parent.
Dubuisson endured a remarkably lonely adolescence, scratching around for his tour card while spending most of his waking hours in his own company.
No wonder, perhaps, that in discussing his attitude to team sports yesterday, the 24-year-old, who still follows an isolated existence as a tax exile in Andorra, suggested he valued solitude above the society of others. "I don't think I could play in a collective sport." But this is the Ryder Cup, Victor, a week in which 12 individuals do just about everything as a singing, back-slapping, high-fiving collective.
How could one so reticent ever be assimilated into such an ebullient team-room atmosphere? He expressed the contradiction thus: "I would describe myself on the course as a quiet and humble person. But then everybody has two sides. When you are at work and when you're outside with your friends, it can be different. You can ask the others - I'm a very funny and cool guy. I enjoy the expectation and attention here. At 8.30 in the morning it is really cold and there are 500 people waiting on the range. The least we can do is to give back to them."
Graeme McDowell appears to agree with Dubuisson's self-analysis. While the Northern Irishman could scarcely be more different on the surface, talking in vibrant detail about the recent birth of his first child, he has become a close confidant of the Frenchman. He is widely expected to partner him, too, in Friday's opening fourballs. "I have heard Victor described as an enigma, and just a tough guy to get your head around, to know what he is thinking," McDowell said. "But his relaxed mood and personality could be confused with intimidation and nervousness. Clearly, he doesn't lack for talent. I've been trying to get close to him over the last few months and he's a great guy."
Paul McGinley claimed that Dubuisson's ingrained shyness did not concern him as he forged the European team dynamics. There is a margin, seemingly, for all shades of Gallic eccentricity in his camp.
"Not everybody is Ian Poulter," he said. "Victor is a challenge for a different reason. I have made it my business to get to know him, and I like him. He has got flair, charisma, Hollywood looks. There is something special about him, and I like the fact that he is different."
Dubuisson's mercurial nature was expressed most memorably in Arizona last spring, where he advanced to the matchplay final courtesy of an extraordinary recovery shot from behind a cactus. Such extravagant short-game talent encouraged parallels with a young Seve Ballesteros, which he was more than content to accept. "I've seen many a recording of him, and he was amazing," he said. "When some people compared my shots with what he used to do, it was a big thing. It was very emotional."
Thomas Bjorn dared to predict that come Sunday, we could have solved some more pieces of this unfathomable French puzzle. "Does anybody really know Victor?" he asked. "Well, he is brilliant. In the team room he is a little more open than people think. I have a feeling that by the end, this guy might stand up and be a great hero."
No pressure, then, Victor. It is high time he unleashed a passion for too long concealed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)