WGC-Mexico Championship 2020: Rory McIlroy Holds 2-Shot Lead After Round 1

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2020

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland follows his ball after striking it at the second tee off during the first round of the WGC-Mexico Championship golf tournament, at the Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City, Mexico City, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Fernando Llano/Associated Press

Rory McIlroy has already won three of the four World Gold Championship events in his career. If the first round of the WGC-Mexico Championship is any indication, he may soon make it a clean sweep.

McIlroy carded a six-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas after Thursday's round at Club de Golf Chapultepec just outside Mexico City.  

After struggling on the short grass at last week's Genesis Invitational, McIlroy returned to his old putter and was back in top form. He recorded five birdies and an eagle against one bogey, with the PGA's putting strokes gained metric indicating he subtracted 3.6 strokes in Round 1. 

"I didn't putt well last week at Riviera," McIlroy told Sky Sports (h/t Independent's Kevin Palmer). "I was trying a new putter, and it didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to, but I was comfortable on the greens today and held some good ones coming in.

"The one saving grace last week was I could see everyone was struggling on the greens, and that helped me. I needed to have a good attitude on the greens today, and it paid off. 

"It was good out there for me. All aspects of my game were working pretty well today. I drove the ball pretty well and took advantage of that. I think the big thing was I putted well."

McIlroy is clearly the best golfer in the world at the moment. He has finished outside the top 10 just twice in his last dozen events, and his worst result of the 2019-20 PGA season was last week's fifth-place showing at Riviera.

McIlroy's hot start is made all the more impressive by the difficult course conditions in Mexico. Only 18 of the 72 golfers in the field finished under par, with the likes of Dustin Johnson (+5), Jordan Spieth (+3) and Adam Scott (+3) all struggling.

Watson is on McIlroy's heels after his own stellar putting day, gaining 5.3 strokes on the short grass. His brilliant putting atoned for some of his wild tee and approach shots; he missed more than half the fairways and greens in regulation but somehow managed to finish with a four-under 67.

Thomas' four-under round was a more run-of-the-mill affair, as he birdied three of the first six holes (with a bogey mixed in) and had back-to-back birds on Nos. 15 and 16 to move into a tie with Watson. 

Louis Oosthuizen, Billy Horschel, Corey Conners and Bryson DeChambeau are all tied for fourth place at three under. 

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