Rose and Poulter given chance to restage double act

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The Independent Online

About the only thing that has remained the same at the British Masters is that Justin Rose will be playing Ian Poulter today. The pair, who are great friends, have been drawn, if that is the correct verb, in the same three ball for the first two rounds. "Draw? I don't think so," Rose joked.

Rose and Poulter enjoyed a thrilling conclusion to last year's tournament at Woburn, playing alongside each other, and producing 15 birdies between them, as Rose won the biggest title of his career to date. Poulter had put his friend up in his house in Milton Keynes for the week, but got little consideration once they were on the course.

It was the fourth win of the year for Rose, but this is the last title he still holds. If that were not motivation enough, Poulter won last week at the Wales Open while suffering from tonsillitis. "I've been trying to make myself ill all week," Rose said, "but it hasn't worked so far."

A photograph of Rose with his sister, his mother and late father celebrating last year's win has pride of place at home. "This tournament has special memories for me," he said. "This was the one tournament I won in front of my dad. To defend it successfully would be a great achievement. This is the last chance I have to defend a title, but even so if I could pick one out of the four it would be this one. It's the biggest in stature and there is something special about playing, and winning, on home soil."

This year the tournament has moved from Woburn to the Forest of Arden. It is all change. There is a new group of sponsors and the date has also shifted so that it is the week prior to the US Open. Rose, who will be playing there for the first time, is one of those on a private jet to Chicago on Sunday night.

"The date didn't really suit me, but I was excited to defend here," he said. "The course is set up with firm greens and thick rough so it should be decent preparation for the US Open."

Colin Montgomerie, who missed the cut last week in Wales, made a last-minute entry to the event, but Darren Clarke was always committed. Not only has his manager, Chubby Chandler, taken over as promoter of the tournament, but he has twice won the English Open here, including last year.

Clarke has not won since for all his fine play from tee-to-green and he has been working hard on his putting. First in greens in regulation and 113th in putting at Wentworth a fortnight ago was not a good combination. The Irishman describes the US Open as "a challenge". "I think I would need to look through a pretty thick pair of glasses to see myself winning a US Open," he said. "But I would like to give myself a chance."

Brian Davis, who qualified for the US Open on Monday, flew back from the States to find his wife very ill. "The family had not told me so I was getting the hump with her for not appreciating the new driveway and then I got home to find her in bed," Davis said.

The tournament is providing a boost to the Golf Foundation's Tri-Golf scheme, which will be expanded into 80 primary schools in Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Southampton. The initiative has received the maximum £50,000 funding from Sportsmatch, a government body matching private funding for grassroots sport.