Whoever captains the next Ryder Cup team from Europe – and Ian Woosnam is the hot favourite – Ian Poulter and Luke Donald are sure to figure in his selection plans.
Poulter won his second Italian Open in three years yesterday, while Donald goes in to today’s rain-delayed final rounds of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic holding a one shot lead.
The pair are part of the new breed of young professionals who will be challenging the old guard – including Woosnam, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie for a place in the 2004 match against the US at Oakland Hills.
Justin Rose, No 40 in the world, has already established himself as a leading contender, alongside fellow Englishmen Paul Casey, Greg Owen, Brian Davis and Nick Dougherty, Welshman Bradley Dredge and Danes Anders and Soren Hansen.
For Poulter, who had a 61 on day one and a hole in one in the second round, it was a first victory for the new Maxfli M3 Tour ball.
"It's soft off the wedges and great into the wind - it just goes straight through it," said Poulter of the low-compression ball, which spins at a low rate off the driver-face, for maximum carry and roll. He also used the TaylorMade 580 driver, 200 Steel Fairway Wood, RAC irons and Ross Putter.
As for Donald (24) he said the weather at Annandale wasn’t a problem for him. "I grew up playing a lot of golf in England in wet conditions and windy and cold so it was not too unfamiliar to me."
He is at 15-under-par 201 for his first lead after 54 holes on Tour. He is trying to become the 18th first-time winner on Tour this season.