(AFP) - Rory McIlroy, chasing a return to the world No. 1 ranking in his first start in seven weeks, fired a second-round 65 on Friday (March 3) to grab the lead in the WGC-Mexico Championship.
The Northern Irishman vaulted into a two-shot lead ahead of five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson, American Justin Thomas and England's Ross Fisher.
Four-time Major champion McIlroy reached a total of nine-under 133 at the Chapultepec Golf Club for his first 36 hole lead on the USPGA Tour since the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla.
"I just felt like I had a bit more energy. I had a bit more pep in my step," said McIlroy, who showed no ill effects of the stomach trouble he has battled this week.
"I wasn't just trying to get through the round today. I was trying to build on the score that I had, and it was nice to feel like that again."
Mickelson carded three-under 68 for a seven-under total of 135. Fisher also posted a 68 and Thomas signed for a 66.
For a victory to propel world No. 3 McIlroy back to No. 1 in the world, current No. 1 Dustin Johnson would have to finish in a tie for fourth or worse.
Johnson was also in the hunt after a five-under 66 that put him in a three-way tie for fifth on 136 with England's Andy Sullivan (65) and Daniel Berger (66).
A group of seven players, including Thomas Pieters (69) and Martin Kaymer (67) were four shots back at five-under 137.