IF cricket really is the new football, then the evidence of the opening day of this week's Seve Trophy suggests golf would quite like to be the new cricket.

Staid and stuffy has become sexy and sassy thanks to the exploits of England's Ashes winners, catapulting cricket to the heart of the nation's sporting conscience and earning the kind of kudos that football has monopolised for far too long.

When even Tony Blair is falling over himself to embrace the merits of bat and ball, sport's tectonic plates must be shifting.

But, while cricket is cool, golf remains positively icy. The number of youngsters taking up the sport continues to fall and the over-riding image remains one of upper-crust clubs closeting themselves amid a host of impenetrable rules and equally unfathomable customs.

From the outside, the sport appears something of a closed shop yet, within the golfing establishment itself, there is a genuine desire to reach out to the previously excluded.

A myriad schemes have been introduced in an attempt to widen the game's appeal but, as cricket has proved this summer, what the sport really needs is a new generation of stars with the style and swagger to turn heads.

Enter the golfing version of "Hollywood". Striding to the first tee in the opening fourball of this week's Seve Trophy, Ian Poulter and Nick Dougherty had certainly perfected their film star swagger.

Laughing and joking during their warm-up routine, Colin Montgomerie's bright young things were men on a mission. They wanted to get the British team their first point of the week but, just as importantly, they wanted to turn a few heads while they did it.

Poulter is already being touted as golf's answer to Kevin Pietersen and, even at first glance, the similarities are obvious.

The haircut is almost identical, although Poulter's crop is more racoon-like than Pietersen's now infamous 'skunk cut', and the devil of the duo's character is found in the details.

It wasn't enough for the 29-year-old to sport the team attire of red polo shirt and black trousers - not when the outfit could be adorned with a red snakeskin belt and custom-made golf shoes sporting the Arsenal club crest. The onlooking Ray Parlour will surely have approved.

Poulter, who has been known to sport union jack flares and hideous pink shirts in the past, is not backward when it comes to going forward. Sadly, though, reverse looked to be his only option when he pushed his opening tee shot into a small copse.

"Beautiful," was his observation on discovering his ball - an ironic comment on the state of his lie rather than an expression of self-satisfaction after catching his reflection in a television camera, although you can never be sure - and the next two minutes were spent re-positioning the hordes who had flocked to The Wynyard Club.

His improvised second shot eventually pulled up ten yards short of the green, but the conversation between Poulter and his public underlined what makes watching golf such a communal experience. There aren't too many sports where the main protagonist discusses how best to move pine cones with a complete unknown.

The approachability of England's cricketers was a revelation this summer compared to the impenetrable wall built around the nation's footballers. Golfers aren't just accessible, every now and then they clatter a ball straight at you.

Unfortunately, for the crowd, Poulter and Dougherty did quite a lot of clattering in the early stages of their round as opponents Thomas Bjorn and Henrik Stenson raced into a two-shot lead within the space of the opening four holes.

Still, if things aren't going to plan in the opening game, there are four more that might be going better.

In the second group on the course, Emanuele Canonica was smoking. Nothing to do with his form - while cigarettes in public are banned in Ireland, they are all but encouraged in Italy - and home skipper Colin Montgomerie wasted no time in giving the home fans something to shout about.

His eagle three on the first should have set the tone for the day, instead it preceded an opening battle in which Continental Europe established the early momentum.

Not that most of the fans knew what was happening. One of tournament golf's many peculiarities is that being out on the course is actually the worst way of keeping abreast of who is doing what.

The occasional scoreboard was filled with a host of red and blue - even the most gifted of mathematicians would struggle to crack the code - but most spectators contented themselves with following one game in particular or establishing a viewing spot at a specific hole.

Those who settled at the 18th looked to have made the wrong decision when just one of the first four games went the distance, but they were ultimately rewarded with the day's biggest drama courtesy of the final fourball.

Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy held his nerve to hole a nine-foot putt for birdie and, when Padraig Harrington missed from a shorter distance, Continental Europe had a 4-1 lead to take into day two.

Dramatic finishes, of course, have been the story of the summer. If golf really is to become the new cricket, the 20 players on display at The Wynyard Club had better conjure up something really special for Sunday night.