Simon Dyson. It was the first name on Paul McGinley's teamsheet and the first out of Ian Poulter's mouth when asked who he expected to graduate from this Seve Trophy to next year's Ryder Cup.
The scoreboard backed up both of them; McGinley for entrusting the Yorkshire man "as my No 1" and Poulter for his prescience. These are early days in the race for Chicago, 2012 – indeed, the gun is still ringing down the fairways – but already Dyson has established himself as a contender, if not a probable.
Two wins in his last six events – including, for the third time, last week's Dutch Open – have hurtled Dyson into the world's top 30. And yesterday's victory in the company of the rookie Jamie Donaldson to lead the way to a commanding 4-1 Great Britain & Ireland advantage after the first-day fourballs only added further validation to the sense that here is a natural team man.
"It's not just the way he plays, but it's his personality as well," said McGinley, who once again asks Dyson to play the hare in today's fourballs. "Some players get such a buzz out of team play. Simon is one of them and, for me, it's just a case of lighting the spark and letting him go. He would have been my No 1 two years ago, but there was a guy called Rory [McIlroy] who was quite good in that role, too."
Some commendation. But then, Dyson, a member of the victorious 1999 Walker Cup side, has appeared in this biennial event twice before and both times his performances earned him assured nods as a future Ryder Cupper. The years in between, however, saw him fall shy, two years ago most painfully when seeing his challenge die in the very last qualifying event. Now, however, the 33-year-old finally feels ready.
"Definitely – to make that team is a big goal of mine," said Dyson, before adding a cautionary caveat. "I've seen a few of my good friends who focused everything on the Ryder Cup and it ruined their games. I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing."
What he keeps doing is knocking it close and making the putt. Of course, there's rather more to the rededication of Dyson, a man who enjoyed the lifestyle so enthusiastically as a young professional he was urged by his father to work harder. Dyson has recently employed a full-time personal trainer – "James Thompson; I stole him from the Marriott gym in Manchester" – and a nutritionist. "I drink only water. No coke, no caffeine, just water," he said, caressing the bottle of mineral water in his hand with the adoration of a tramp with his Special Brew.
Dyson has plainly committed himself and stir this in with his current mood and the mix should be rousing for next year's Ryder Cup captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, here in a watching role. "It all started at the Open in July," said Dyson, thinking back to his ninth-placed finish. "I actually went away from Sandwich thinking, 'I could win one of these'. That is the first time I've felt that going away from a major and the confidence it gave me was tremendous."
Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal would testify to the inexorable quality of his roll. The Spanish pair assembled eight birdies in 17 holes, yet still found themselves beaten 2&1.
It was a similar story for most of the Continentals – apart from Peter Hanson and home hero, Raphaël Jacquelin. They were actually over par when losing 6&4 to Ross Fisher and Scott Jamieson, a fact Jean van de Velde struggled to comprehend. "Enlighten me like a three-year-old," he said. "How do two men of that calibre on a course like this finish over par as a better ball? I don't understand."
* England's Justin Rose yesterday stormed back into form, scoring a superb 63, eight under par, to claim a two-shot lead in the first round of the BMW Championship at Cog Hill, Illinois.Reuse content