Rory McIlroy leads DJ and Justin Thomas at WGC-Mexico
There was a welcome return to form for Rory McIlroy at the WGC-Mexico Championship on Thursday as he grabbed the first-round lead courtesy of a sparkling 63.
McIlroy combined accurate iron-play with some superb form on the greens to fire seven birdies and eagle and drop just one shot in his eight-under-par round.
How does @McIlroyRory play this 305-yard par 4?
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 22 February 2019
That was good enough for a one-stroke lead over a star-studded leaderboard that features nine of the top 10 players in the world.
“It felt pretty stress-free,” said McIlroy afterwards. “I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I hit a lot of good golf shots, I left myself a lot of tap-ins for birdies and had a nice eagle on the first hole as well.
“I think for the most part my wedge play was pretty good. I was able to control my distance as well, control trajectories well, but my putting felt great all year, so if I’m excited about anything in my game, it’s the way I’ve putted the last few weeks.
“Also just my attitude. I’m not putting myself under any pressure, I’ve sort of got things in a really nice perspective. I think that’s probably 80 per cent of the reason why I’m playing this good golf over the first few weeks of the year.
“I saw some really good signs last year. I played myself into final groups and had some good chances to win and I think this year is just building upon the good stuff that I was able to do last year.”
World No 3 Dustin Johnson grabbed solo second place after an opening 64, while No 4 Justin Thomas shared third place a further two shots back with Matt Kuchar.
Easiest par I made all day… 😂 good start today here in Mexico! Time to keep the gas pedal down 👊🏽 https://t.co/6uw8HaIkaQ
— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) 22 February 2019
Englishman Tyrrell Hatton and South African George Coetzee follow a shot further back in a tie for fifth, while Ian Poulter was among those tied for seventh on three under.
Tiger Woods got off to the worst possible start when he hit his opening tee-shot out-of-bounds and ultimately had to dig deep to salvage a level-par 71.
Tiger’s opening tee shot(s) did not live up to his first-tee introduction. pic.twitter.com/BkZCgvOnLk
— Skratch (@Skratch) 21 February 2019
That was positively impressive compared to fellow veteran and defending champion Phil Mickelson, however, who appeared to be feeling the effects of playing four weeks in a row as he slumped to a disastrous 79 and second-to-last place on the leaderboard.
Tyrell Hatton shares slow play fears as US PGA begins at Southern Hills
This week’s course layout in Tulsa looks set to exacerbate the issue.
‘Recharged’ Shane Lowry excited for week ahead at US PGA Championship
Lowry has finished no worse than 35th in his nine starts this season.
Jordan Spieth relishing playing alongside Tiger Woods in career grand slam bid
Spieth has had five attempts to complete the grand slam since adding the 2017 Open title to the Masters and US Open he won in 2015.
‘He has his opinion, I have mine’ – Tiger Woods on Phil Mickelson controversy
Woods said Mickelson’s comments about the PGA Tour have been “polarising”.
Rory McIlroy hoping relaxed approach pays dividends at US PGA Championship
McIlroy did his research via videos posted online before travelling to Oklahoma on Monday.
Tiger Woods believes he can scale another mountain and win US PGA Championship
The 46-year-old finished 47th in the year’s first major, his first top-level event since suffering severe leg injuries.
Rory McIlroy was pretty sure Saudi-backed breakaway would not happen
The Northern Irishman is waiting to see how it plays out.
Graeme Storm recalls ‘surreal’ US PGA adventure after battle with Rory McIlroy
His famous victory over McIlroy came on the third extra hole in the 2017 South African Open in Johannesburg
Lee Kyoung-Hoon shoots his lowest round on the tour to retain Texas title
Dallas-born Jordan Spieth went close with a chip for eagle on the 18th which would have forced a play-off.
Sam Horsfield ‘so happy’ after winning Soudal Open to secure another title
Horsfield overcame overnight leader Ryan Fox in a thrilling final-round battle.