McIlroy in front on 63, with Woods on 71

MEXICO CITY • The sense that victory is tantalisingly close for Rory McIlroy was renewed, after a seemingly effortless eight-under 63 positioned him atop the WGC-Mexico Championship leaderboard.

The Northern Irishman, in this touch, makes for compulsive viewing.

A 63 at last week's Genesis Open and 65 at the earlier Farmers Insurance Open stood out before his opening round at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, where McIlroy found 17 greens in regulation on Thursday.

His longest converted putt was from 20 feet, further demonstrating his level of accuracy.

Afterwards, he suggested his on-course vigour was all in the mind, but insisted there was no prospect of him contemplating victory prematurely, with only a one-shot lead over second-placed Dustin Johnson and a title drought dating back to the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March.

"I'm managing my game well," the world No. 8 said. "I love where my attitude is at. My attitude on the golf course is fantastic and my putting is good.

"I've seen some really good signs with my putting over the last few weeks.

"I had three really good putting rounds at Riviera the last three days and carried it into here.

"Winning is a by-product of doing all the little things well, practising the right way, thinking well, training well, eating well.

"I feel like I'm on a really good journey of doing that. But I can't put pressure on myself, I can't push it."

Like all the players in the elite field, McIlroy is also adjusting to playing on a course situated some 2,400m above sea level, where he said some shots could go 100 yards further than normally expected.

"It's fun," he said. "I'm glad we don't have to do it every week but, while we're here, we might as well make the most of it."

Former world No. 1 Tiger Woods received a rapturous welcome from fans on the first tee on his first competitive start in the country as he carded a 71, but Phil Mickelson tumbled to a 79 to leave his title defence in tatters.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2019, with the headline 'McIlroy in front on 63, with Woods on 71'. Print Edition | Subscribe