Spectator sport

Victor Dubuisson and the true spirit of sport

This young golfer plays in the right way. Watch out for him

8 March 2014

9:00 AM

8 March 2014

9:00 AM

Just do it. The people who make trainers have been telling us to ‘Just do it’ for 25 years now. As a slogan it is simple and effective. (It was also, I learn from Google, inspired by the final words of the executed 1970s spree-killer Gary Gilmore. There’s a free fact for you.) But how many elite sportsmen can just do it?

When there are hundreds of thousands of dollars resting on a shot or a kick or a smash or a putt, no wonder people go to pieces. They lose their confidence, overthink what they need to do, take an age to line up the target, then find their limbs go tight and they fluff the chance. Call it paralysis by analysis. The England cricket team are more than familiar with it this winter.

The young just do it because they haven’t learnt to fear their sport. They still treat it as something to be loved — and it gives us armchair spectators a warm feeling. Remember the name Victor Dubuisson. The 23-year-old golfer plays his sport the right way. Six months ago, he was outside the top 130, but then he stared down the likes of Tiger Woods and Justin Rose to win a big-money tournament in Turkey in November. More good finishes came, culminating in the World Match Play in Arizona two weeks ago, where he showed the ruthlessness of a young Nick Faldo and the flamboyance of Seve Ballesteros, beating Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell and Bubba Watson to reach the final, where he lost to Australia’s Jason Day on the fifth extra hole.

Dubuisson can whack it 300 yards from the tee every time, but the best thing about him is that he just does it. At the 19th hole in the final he found himself in Seve territory, way off the fairway amid the rubble and the cactus plants. Expecting the end of the match, the commentator said: ‘I don’t know how in the world he is going to play this shot… oh, he just went and hit it.’ Dubuisson, with barely a second look, walked up to his ball and knocked it to within three feet of the hole. Some players would still be considering their options now.

At the next hole, he did the same thing, somehow squeezing his club face through the undergrowth and playing a miraculous stroke to save par. Faldo paid the greatest tribute: ‘I saw Seve pull off some belters, but nothing as good as those.’ Dubuisson lost the final in the end, but he won millions of fans and has all but earned his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team this autumn. Let’s hope he keeps on just doing it.

If it is fun to watch the beginning of sporting glory, schadenfreude obliges us to rejoice in a chaotic death as well. It’s not getting any better for Manchester United, winners of 21 trophies in the past 20 years: seventh in the Premiership — and needing to win ten of their last 11 matches just to equal their worst ever points haul; out of the FA Cup and all but out of Europe after losing to Olympiacos the other week.

Looks like Sir Alex Ferguson got out of office at just the right time. Poor David Moyes, who was given the manager’s equivalent of a hospital pass with a weak squad and no extra money for transfers, will probably be out of a job before long. Once upon a time Manchester United could just do it, usually in the 93rd minute, but ‘Fergie time’ has long run out. Stop smirking.

Spectator readers are famously passionate about, and interested in, the great outdoors, so I urge anyone with a free Friday night to hurry along to the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington for a brilliant evening of stories from one of Britain’s finest mountaineers, Andy Cave, as well as the first London screening of Distilled, a powerful movie about the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands. There will also be a free whisky tasting of Glenfiddich’s new 15-year-old malt. What more do you want? Just do it.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Roger Alton is an executive editor at the Times.

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