| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES A year ago, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson was one of several talented young players toiling away on the European Tour with almost no experience in golf's biggest events and still seeking his first victory on the circuit.
Within the past four months, however, Dubuisson has spectacularly broken free of those shackles, his maiden win at the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open in November opening virtually every door to him at the game's highest level.
In two months' time, the 23-year-old Cannes native will make his Masters debut at Augusta National and this week he is competing in his first elite World Golf Championships event, the Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Tucson.
"I am really looking forward to the Match Play," Dubuisson, with his eyes lighting up, told Reuters. "It's a great event and I hope I do well because I've never played matchplay golf before.
"It's really exciting for me. Now I can play all the big events and the Match Play will be a great experience for me. Matchplay golf is such a different game and I'll enjoy the whole experience."
Dubuisson, a brilliant amateur who turned professional after he missed the cut at the 2010 British Open following his only major start so far, says his breakthrough victory in Turkey totally transformed his assurance as a golfer.
"It was a really great feeling and it changed my self-belief a lot," he recalled of his two-shot triumph in a strong field which included world number one Tiger Woods, his golfing idol, and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.
"I proved to myself that I could win and now that I have played in some big tournaments, I feel so much more confident, especially when I'm in a difficult situation," added Dubuisson, who headed the world amateur rankings in 2009.
"It was a very strong field in Turkey and I'm really proud of what I did because it was the toughest golf day of my life. I've learned that on the course, when you play in a strong field, you have to stay very patient."
World number 30 Dubuisson, who was ranked 134th just over a year ago, believes his meteoric rise owes a great deal to his improved putting.
"I have been working very hard on my putting, on the stroke, over the last three months," he said. "I have a new coach, Benoit Ducoulombier, and my short game has definitely improved."
After winning his maiden European Tour title with an exemplary exhibition of front-running in Turkey, Dubuisson went on to place third the following week at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
That propelled him to sixth in the final Race to Dubai money list, capping a 2012-13 European Tour campaign which had featured seven top-10s in 19 starts.
Asked how much his strong finish had impacted on his goals for 2014, and especially the Ryder Cup, Dubuisson replied: "The Ryder Cup, I don't really think about it.
"If I play well, I think I will be in the team but I am focused more on the majors and the big events that I will play. I don't really set goals. I just try to do as good as I can on every shot."
Dubuisson, who will face American Kevin Streelman in Wednesday's opening round at Dove Mountain, took up golf after watching Woods win the 1997 Masters in record-setting style.
The Frenchman can hardly believe that he will compete for the first time at Augusta National when the year's opening major takes place there from April 10-13.
"That is going to be very special," he smiled. "I know it's a very tricky course and I will have to really check out the course well before the tournament starts.
"I think the practice rounds will be very important. I have never played there before. All I know about Augusta is what I have seen on television."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)