WGC-Mexico Championship 2019: Rory McIlroy Holds 1-Stroke Lead After Round 1

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2019

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, tees off on the 18th hole during the final round of the Genesis Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
Ryan Kang/Associated Press

Rory McIlroy's game appears to be rounding into form.

McIlroy carded an eight-under 63 in Thursday's first round of the 2019 WGC-Mexico Championship, giving him a one-stroke lead over Dustin Johnson. McIlroy and Johnson lapped the field, with no other golfer posting a score better than a five-under.

Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar are tied for third after shooting 66. Tyrell Hatton and George Coetzee round out the top five after shooting four under.

McIlroy hit 17 of his 18 greens in regulation and had an excellent putting day for his second round of 63 of the past week. His lone blemish on the day was a bogey on the par-five sixth, a hole that could have taken him all the way to 10 under had he played it to a birdie. 

"It felt pretty stress free," McIlroy told reporters. "I feel like I'm managing my game well, and I love where my attitude is at.

"My attitude on the golf course is fantastic and my putting has been really good. I've seen some really good signs in my putting over the last few weeks.

"But if I'm excited about anything with my game, it's my putting and my attitude. It's probably the best they've been in a long time."

McIlroy has won just once in the last two seasons but said his low round has not added any pressure. 

“I’m not putting myself under any pressure,” McIlroy told reporters. “I’ve sort of got things in a really nice perspective. I think that’s probably 80 percent of the reason why I’m playing this good golf over the first few weeks of the year.

“I’m off to a great start this week, but I literally have taken each and every day this year one day at a time, and that’s the way I’m going to treat it not just this week but going forward.”

For the second straight tournament, Tiger Woods will have to battle back after struggling in Round 1. He sits in a tie for 25th after shooting an even-par 71. The former world No. 1 opened his round with a double bogey on No. 1 and never got into a rhythm, continuing to struggle with his putter.

Current world No. 1 Justin Rose is not playing this week.

Brooks Koepka, the top-ranked player in the field, is in a tie for 47th after shooting two over. 

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