Rory McIlroy blows past field to grab WGC-Mexico Championship lead

February 21, 2020

Rory McIlroy’s ball was zeroing in on the cup for eagle on No. 11 at Club de Golf Chapultepec when a tiny pine-needle branch blew in and appeared to be honing in on the ball. The branch stood up as the ball dropped, and McIlroy had his three on the par-5 11th, his second hole of the day.

If even the course is bending to the will of the world’s No. 1-ranked player, then the rest of the field at the WGC-Mexico Championship might as well just stand and watch over the next three rounds.

McIlroy shot a 6-under 65 on Thursday to lead by two shots over Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas and three shots over Louis Oosthuizen, Billy Horschel, Corey Conners and Bryson DeChambeau.

And just like that, his disastrous finish at the Genesis Invitational last Sunday, where he entered the final round tied for the lead, only to shoot 2-over 73 and finish T5, was quickly forgotten.

“I’m comfortable in my golf game, and I’m comfortable with what I’m doing, and that’s the important thing,” McIlroy said.

Here’s everything you missed from Thursday’s action in Mexico.

McIlroy leads

Rory started strong, eagling his second hole (the 12th) and birdieing his sixth (the 15th). He didn’t stumble much, bogeying just his 13th hole (the fourth). And he rebounded when he did, closing with birdies on three of his last four holes.

It’s the second straight year McIlroy leads the event after the first round.

Who’s lurking?

In a 72-player, no-cut field, you’d expect studs toward the top of the leaderboard, and the tournament is not disappointing in that respect. Fresh off his weekend round with Justin Bieber in Los Angeles, Watson had five birdies and just one bogey on his way to a 67, as did Justin Thomas.

Oosthuizen, Horschel, Conners and DeChambeau shot 3-under 68s and are three strokes behind McIlroy, and six golfers shot 69s – Tyrell Hatton, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Sungjae Im, Lee Westwood and Hideki Matsuyama.

Who struggled?

Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 5-over 76 with four bogeys and a double bogey on the par-4 12th. He leads just four players.

Adam Scott’s momentum after last week’s victory at the Genesis was wiped away on the back nine at Club de Golf Chapultepec, where he bogeyed the 10th and 12th and doubled the 14th.

What happened to Tiger?

Tiger Woods’ pursuit of the PGA Tour’s all-time wins record will have to wait at least another week, as he is taking this week off.

Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, spent his day in New York and tweeted about it (see video above).

What the heck happened with Erik van Rooyen?

His final day in his 20s – (Van Rooyen turns 30 on Friday) – was memorable.

A front-nine 39, with bogeys on the 13th, 14th and 16th holes. Then the back nine offered him a gift, as Van Rooyen unwrapped a 31, with an eagle and four birdies, including a chip-in for a two on the par-3 seventh.

How can I watch Round 2?

You can watch Friday’s action on Golf Channel from 2-7 p.m. ET.

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