Mick­el­son among 6 tied for lead at WGC

McIl­roy (68) one shot back in re­turn from rib in­jury.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

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.

GETTY IM­AGES

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.

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