McIlroy sets pace in Mexico

22 February 2019 04:47:00 EST

Rory McIlroy produced a scintillating display of ball-striking in the first round of the WGC-Mexico Championship, firing an 8-under-par 63 to take a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson.

The Northern Irishman hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation at the par-71 Chapultepec and racked up seven birdies and an eagle.

I think this year is just building upon the good stuff that I was able to do last year.

Rory McIlroy

Johnson, the winner of this event when it was first played two years ago, matched McIlroy for most of the day, shooting a bogey-free 64 with seven birdies and 11 pars.

Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar share third spot, a further two strokes back on 5-under, while England's Tyrrell Hatton and South African George Coetzee are at 4-under.

Tiger Woods hit his opening tee-shot out of bounds and had to settle for an even-par 71, while defending champion Phil Mickelson had a nightmare day, finishing joint-70th of the 72-man field after handing in an eight-over 79.

McIlroy said later: "It felt pretty stress-free. I wouldn't say it was easy. 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 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."

McIlroy is 66/1 to win the tournament, with Johnson 1/250, Thomas 4000/1 and Kuchar 4000/1.

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