Melbourne: While European golfers are currently hogging the limelight and dominating the world rankings, Briton Ian Poulter expects a crop of talented young Americans to be challenging for top honours before long.   

Luke Donald (Britain), Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Lee Westwood (Britain) and Martin Kaymer (Germany) hold golf's top four spots with the United States' highest-ranked player Steve Stricker in sixth.   

Europe's rise has coincided with the struggles of former world number one Tiger Woods, now 22nd, while fellow American Phil Mickelson has also slipped to 14th.   

"There is some great talent coming out of the States," Poulter told reporters at Melbourne's Victoria Golf Club on Wednesday. I'm not going to say they are in a slump in any way, shape or form, they have some fantastic players.    

"But I think certainly in the next 18 months, two years, we will see a push from those young guys in the States."   

Poulter nominated Rickie Fowler as a player to watch, saying the 23-year-old had yet to hit his stride on his home circuit despite confirming his promise in October with a thumping six-stroke victory in the Korea Open for his maiden professional title.   

"Obviously it won't take him long to start winning plenty of tournaments. He won in Asia, but he hasn't won over there," said Poulter. "I'm sure it won't be long before he makes a hard push up the world rankings."   

Poulter will battle Donald and a strong local field at the Australian Masters starting on Thursday, keen to make his own charge up the rankings having slipped from a high of fifth last year to his current 28th.   

Poulter famously stalled Donald's rise to the top ranking by beating him in the World Match Play Championship final in Spain in May and has again set his sights on beating the Englishman this week.   

"Right now obviously I have slipped down the world rankings a little bit, but I can move up very quickly. A win this week would - probably push me to about 17 in the world - not that I have been looking," the 35-year-old quipped.   

"(Donald) is certainly going to be the man to beat this week, but he brings a lot of world ranking points to this golf tournament. If I can come out on top this week, it would move me up nicely. A couple of wins is all it takes."   

Poulter, renowned for his striking on-course fashion, said he would be glad to add the tournament winner's "gold jacket" to his closet but would have to think hard about what to pair with it.   

"I'm not sure if it is going to clash with the tartans," he added. "I might have to just wear them on Friday and Saturday."

(Agencies)