Ian Poulter has named Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith as favourites to lift the World Cup of Golf when the tournament returns to Melbourne this November.
Poulter, who was selected by Tyrrell Hatton to form Team England, told an Australian teleconference that he expects Leishman and Smith will be the toughest opponents to overcome at Metropolitan Golf Club in four weeks’ time.
“I definitely see that Australian partnership as being favourites and I see them as the team to beat,” Poulter said.
The 42-year-old has represented England on five occasions at the World Cup and was desperate to make his first appearance since 2011, approaching Hatton during the FedExCup Playoffs in August/September.
“I said to him, you know, right back then, ‘listen, I'm very, very interested and excited if you want to team up to come down to Metropolitan to play. I've heard lots of good things about the golf course and I would love to be your partner,’” Poulter said.
Hatton, who is good friends with Poulter despite their 15-year age gap, will be making his World Cup debut after his compatriots Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey passed on their opportunity to join the field.
“I think any chance you get to represent your country, it's a special occasion,” Hatton said.
“Golf's generally an individual sport, so to be able to play in the team event … I've jumped at the opportunity to do it.”
The 27-year-old, who recently made his Ryder Cup debut in France, had plenty of options when it came to selecting his partner, with the likes of Matt Fitzpatrick, Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace each enjoying solid years.
But the three-time winner on the European Tour didn’t waste any time to call on Poulter, who boasts a superb record in teams events and displays the same levels of passion on the golf course.
“I definitely see that Australian partnership as being favourites and I see them as the team to beat.” – Ian Poulter
“It was a no‑brainer from that point of view, but also he showed a really keen interest to play in the tournament, so it was an easy decision,” Hatton said.
“Obviously he's only just behind me in the World Rankings … It was important as well to have as strong a team as possible.”
Leishman, who is currently World No.16, will be the highest-ranked played in the field after many of his fellow PGA Tour players decided to skip the event in favour of time at home during the Thanksgiving period.
Poulter, however, believes the competition will still be fierce and is looking forward to donning the English colours once more.
“I enjoy that pressure, I enjoy the atmosphere, I enjoy the fact of pride of putting the shirt on and going out,” Poulter said.
Just don’t expect to see him wearing his customary Union Jack trousers …
“After watching him as I was growing up, seeing him wear some outrageous outfits, I think it's safer if I choose the outfits for that week,” Hatton said.