RORY McIlroy soared into a two-stroke first round lead at the WGC-Mexico Championship in his bid to complete the WGC Grand Slam.
The World No. 1 continued a stunning run of recent form with a six-under par 65, at Chapultepec Golf Club, in Mexico City.
“It was good. All aspects of my game were working pretty well,” said McIlroy after his first round.
“I drove the ball well, and I took advantage of that. I think the big thing was I putted well. I didn’t putt so well at Riviera last week.
“I went back to my old putter, I was trying a new one last week. It didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it to, but I was comfortable on the greens and holed some nice ones coming in.”
While questions may remain over McIlroy’s putting prowess, there was no doubting his premium ball-striking, regardless of the effect of playing at altitude, with Chapultepec some 7,600 feet above sea level.
Rory revealed: “I think I’ve got the altitude pretty figured out. I’ve always played well at altitude.
“I’ve played well in Crans over in Europe a few years. I finished second there last year, I obviously finished second here last year.
“I think I have a pretty good formula for it, and I can hit the ball a long way here, which helps, and then my distance control has been pretty good.
“That combined with not really guessing too much over things. Certainty goes a long way, especially around this place.”
McIlroy got off to a fast start after a stunning second shot into the par five 11th hole – his second – yielded an eagle, and he finished in some style too as a pair of closing birdies moved the 30-year-old two clear of Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas.
Louis Oosthuizen was one of four players a shot further back on three under, while his fellow European Tour Members Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed and Lee Westwood all carded 69s to sit four off the lead on two-under.
Oosthuizen said: “I felt like I was really unlucky on one. I pitched it on the downslope in the bunker and it stayed there, and had absolutely no shot – ended up leaving myself 10 feet for par and missed that.
So not the start I wanted, but I just fought it out really, and there’s still a lot of work to do.
“I’m struggling finding a driver that I’m comfortable with, so you’ll see me a few times in places that I’m normally not at.
“But I’m fighting it out, and I’ve done a good job on the greens today,” added Oosthuizen, who was third behind McIlroy at Sheshan Golf Club, in the HSBC Champions, in 2019.
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Hatton happy to be playing again
BUCKINGHAMSHIRE pro Tyrrell Hatton was relieved to play well having missing three months while waiting for a persistent wrist injury to heal.
Hatton, who won the Turkish Airlines Open, in November, said: “Overall, I’m pretty happy with that.
“I’ve only been back hitting balls for the last three and a half weeks, so it was a long lay-off. I’m quite happy,” said the Harleyford GC member.
“Obviously I’ve done well here in the past, so I know the course pretty well, and yeah, it was just good to kind of get back out there and play competitive golf again.
“I always enjoy short, fiddly golf courses, I guess, and this is certainly up there with the best of them,” said Hatton, who also won the 2017 Italian Open on a tight parkland track.
“And I guess it’s funny because you need patience around here, and that’s something that I don’t really have.
“For some reason the course has kind of been fairly kind to me, and hopefully it continues this week.”