Wednesday 21 February 2018

Victor Dubuisson triumphs as Rory McIlroy challenge fizzles out in Turkey

Victor Dubuisson after victory in the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club
Victor Dubuisson after victory in the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club

Phil Casey

An emotional Victor Dubuisson is targeting another Ryder Cup appearance after winning the Turkish Airlines Open for the second time in three years, as Rory McIlroy's challenge fizzled out in Antalya.

Dubuisson broke down in tears on the 18th green after carding a closing 66 to finish 22 under par, one shot ahead of South Africa's Jaco Van Zyl, with Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat a shot further back.

World number three McIlroy began the day just a shot off the lead after three consecutive 67s, but could only manage a final round of 71 to finish in a tie for sixth.

"It was so hard because there were so many personal reasons why I did not play so much this year," said Dubuisson, who declined to reveal any details.

"That's why I am so emotional. I played a few events on the PGA Tour at the beginning of the year and I was not feeling good to be far away from my family. I did not play well and I was feeling lonely so decided to come back to Europe. Now, for the next three or four years, I will just stay in Europe 100 per cent."

Dubuisson, who was unbeaten on his Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles in 2014 and now leads the qualifying race, added: "Hopefully I can play again. I have put myself now in a good position but there is still a lot of work to do. I will definitely play more tournaments to give myself a really good chance to be a part of it."

After starting the day tied for the lead, Dubuisson birdied three of the first four holes before losing a ball off the tee on the fifth to run up a double-bogey five, and was three off the pace after Aphibarnrat's sixth birdie of the day on the 10th despite brilliantly saving par on the same hole with a pitch through the trees after taking a penalty drop when his wayward drive finished in a bush.

The 25-year-old then chipped in for an eagle on the 11th and birdied the 15th and 17th to join Van Zyl in the lead, before a massive drive on the 18th and a superb eight-iron approach from 193 yards to 10 feet.

Aphibarnrat almost chipped in for an eagle from over the green but missed from a matter of inches for his birdie, while Van Zyl could also only make par to leave Dubuisson a two-putt birdie for the win.

"It means a lot because I haven't had a great season so far and to win here, put me back in the top 10 of the Race to Dubai, it's really great," added Dubuisson, who was surprised and disappointed to learn he is not eligible for next week's WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.

"I was still top-50 in the Race to Dubai, but I was expecting more compared to the 2014 and 2013 season. Winning this week, I couldn't dream of something better.

"I got my confidence back because I completely lost it months ago. I was missing everything on the greens and you feel like your game is never going to come back."

The consolation for McIlroy was increasing his lead over Danny Willett to almost 400,000 points as he seeks a third Race to Dubai title in four years.

"It's always disappointing whenever you have a chance to win and you don't play well enough to do that," the 26-year-old said after bogeys on the eighth, ninth and 12th ended his challenge.

"I'll be going away from this tournament very disappointed with how I played today. But I'm still playing two more events this year and I feel like my game is good enough to give myself two opportunities to win again."

Press Association

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