I fancy McIlroy’s chances, but reputation counts for nothing

 
Sam Torrance
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FORM and reputation go out of the window in a matchplay tournament but I’d still back Rory McIlroy to enjoy a good week at the WGC Matchplay Championship in Arizona.

It will be tough for the Northern Irishman – matchplay is tough for everyone – but Rory is world number one and I’d expect him to come through his first round pairing with Shane Lowry unscathed, when play commences on Wednesday.

The format does not suit the game’s top players.

Anyone can have an off day and recover in a stroke play tournament.

But a matchplay tournament, which places golfers head-to-head, is a wide open field in comparison.

We don’t have many of them in the calendar because the sponsors don’t like the unpredictability of them and want the big names fighting for the trophy and there are no guarantees of that.

Tiger Woods has a difficult draw too against fellow American Charles Howell III and reigning champion Hunter Mahan – who beat McIlroy in last year’s final – plays against the exciting Italian teenager Matteo Mannassero.

It’s a really interesting draw, but an impossible tournament to predict. Any of the 64 golfers in the draw could win it.

LEGENDARY

Fredrik Jacobson could be a name to look out for though.

The Swede has been paired

with the legendary Ernie Els and is in good form, though coming so close at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles last week would have hurt.

Freddie was tied for the lead at the 17th hole on the final day, but missed his putt and then misfired again on the 18th.

He’s very experienced, so I’m not sure you could put it down to nerves, it was just one of those things on a tough course. It can happen to anyone.

He missed out on the play-off at the tricky 10th, which the American John Merrick eventually won from compatriot Charlie Beljan.

Elsewhere, Darren Fichardt hung on to win the Africa Open after bogeying three out of four holes on the back nine at the East London Golf Club.

DISASTROUS

Darren had a real up and down day, pulling four shots clear at the turn, but then looked like he might throw it all away with a disastrous finish.

But, after a poor drive on the 18th, he hit a fine second shot to clear the trees and land on the green to make sure he got over the line.

Darren said he began to take his lead for granted and lost some of his focus.

But he eventually finished on 16 under par for the week and won by two shots.

Being able to regroup when you’ve hit a bad patch like that and play each hole as it comes is what good players do.

It is what sets you apart from the rest.

Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam