Mickelson among 6 tied for lead at WGC
McIlroy (68) one shot back in return from rib injury.
Rory McIlroy leaned over and rested his hand on the top of his driver. At the turn, waiting for the green to clear, he twirled half of a bagel in his finger and then ducked inside a tent to sit on a table. In his return to golf after seven weeks, he didn’t look to be in the best of shape Thursday at the Mexico Championship.
Only it was his stomach, not his ribs.
As for his golf ? That looked to be as good as ever.
McIlroy, playing for the first time since Jan. 15 because of a hairline rib fracture, was rarely out of position, blasted a 4-iron out of the rough from 256 yards to set up an eagle and wound up with a 3-under 68. He finished the opening round at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City one shot out of a six-way tie for the lead.
Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, two of the four players who were in the field for the first edition of this World Golf Championships event in 1999, each shot 67 and were joined at the top by PGA champion Jimmy Walker, Ross Fisher, Jon Rahm of Spain and Ryan Moore. Westwood and Walker each made it to 6 under until two bogeys over their final few holes.
It was an impressive return for McIlroy, and equally impressive was the debut of Chapultepec, hosting this WGC event after it spent nine years at Trump Doral.
“I’ve waited long enough to play,” McIlroy said. “I wanted to get out here and be competitive and try to shoot a good score. I don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I did in China last year when I had the same thing. So hopefully, it’s just a day thing and it will pass.”
British Open champion Henrik Stenson wasn’t so fortunate. He withdrew after 11 holes with a stomach virus.
The biggest surprise was Chapultepec, hosting the best players in the world at nearly 7,800 feet. Roberto Castro hit a tee shot 407 yards. Mickelson hit one 379 yards, his longest in recent years without hitting a cart path. Dustin Johnson, in his debut at No. 1 in the world, hit 3-wood on the 316-yard first hole that bounded over the green, into the hedges and out of bounds.
For all that length, no one could do better than 67. Only 27 players in the 77-man field broke par.
“Even though the golf
course doesn’t play long because of the altitude, it is challenging in many other respects with the precision of the irons, the small targets that the greens present and the speed and undulation of the greens,” Mickelson said.
No one was more flummoxed than Johnson, who played as well as anyone and got nothing out of it on the poa greens. Johnson missed six putts from 6 feet or closer and still managed a 70.
Jordan Spieth had two early bogeys and had to rally to get back to 71.
LPGA Tour: Michelle Wie rolled in several clutch putts and had six birdies in a 10-hole stretch to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore.
The 27-year-old Wie, who has struggled with injuries and form since winning the U.S. Open in 2014, shot a 6-under 66 at the new Tanjong course. Five others were tied for second after 67s — Olympic champion Inbee Park, Brooke Henderson, Mo Martin, Anna Nordqvist and Ariya Jutanugarn.
European Tour: Gregory Havret, Haydn Porteous, and Alexander Bjork shared the lead after the first round of the Tshwane Open in South Africa, all carding 6-under 65s at Pretoria Country Club.
Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on No. 8 during Thursday’s first round of the WGCMexico Championship. Mickelson fired a 4-under-par 67 to share the lead.