Rory McIlroy’s decision to return to his ‘old’ putter saw him brush off any lingering L. A., putting blues and brilliantly muscle his way to a two-shot lead on day one of the WGC – Mexico Championship at Mexico City.
McIlroy, dressed all in black, stood tall in a no-cut event boasting 72 players from 19 different countries and in the process signed for a six-under par 65 in the swirling and thin-air conditions on the historic Club de Golf Chapultepec course.
The American duo of Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson share second place after four-under 67s.
McIlroy was soaring early in the world’s eighth highest capital city launching a booming 346-yard drive at the par-5 11th, the second hole of his round. The World No. 1 landed his second to 16-feet right of the cup and rolled-in the eagle putt after picking-off two eagles on day one a week ago at the Genesis Invitational.
McIlroy then calmly picked-off birdies at the sixth (15th on the card) and also at his 11th before a dropped shot on 13, but then rebounded in draining a 29-foot ‘bomb’ at his 15th to get back into a share of the lead at four-under.
He then went to the front at five-under in the Euro 9.7m event in holing a 14-footer for birdie at his penultimate hole before finding the bottom of the cup for the fifth birdie of his round at the last.
McIlroy was way in front off the tee averaging 354-yards a drive and reaped the rewards of choosing to return his ‘old’ putter in recording only 26 putts.
“It was a good round with all aspects of my game working pretty well today. I drove the ball well and took full advantage of that and the big thing was I putted well,” he said.
“I holed a nice birdie last Sunday at the 72nd to get momentum coming into this week and I decided to change my putter from last week and go back to my old putter.
“I was trying out a new putter last week but it just didn’t quite work out the way I wanted to, so I am back to my 34-inch putter rather than the 35-inch putter I used last week, and just felt more comfortable out there today including holing some nice birdies coming in.
“So, I had a really good attitude on the greens and it paid off.”
And while McIlroy talked of attitude, he was reminded he plays well at altitude.
A year ago, he opened in Mexico City, the world’s eighth highest capital city at some 7,300 feet, with a 63 on route to finishing second while he should have captured a then maiden European Tour event at the 2008 Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland had he not ‘cooked’ his second shot into the 18th green at the first extra play-off hole.
And he also lost out in a five-way Swiss play-off last September.
“I’ve always played well at altitude as I played well in Crans early in my career and I was second there also last year,” he said.
“So, I think I have playing at altitude figured out, and I have a good formula for it.
“I can also hit the ball a long way here in Mexico which helps while my distance-control is also pretty good. I am also not guessing too much over my shots and hitting the ball a long way certainly goes a long way on courses like this week and in Switzerland.”
Just 18 players managed to break par on day one while Johnson struggling under the weight of a five-over par 76 and already 10 shots adrift of McIlroy.
Graeme McDowell’s return to the ranks of a WGC event in four years was a day he’d rather forget slumping to seven-over after 10 holes and completing the last eight in one-under par for a five-over par 76.
McDowell, who last contested at WGC in 2026 and is also making his Mexico City debut, was out at the same time as McIlroy from the first tee but that’s about all the Ulster duo had in common.
Sticking out like the proverbial dog’s hind leg on GMac’s card is a treble-bogey ‘6’ at the par-3 7th where he found the water off the tee and then in taking a drop, he found a back bunker and took a further three shots to get up-and-down.
Open champ Shane Lowry was out in the later groups on day one and had moved to one-over par through eight holes before ending his round with 10 straight pars to be one place inside the top-30.
Full scoring HERE