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McIlroy takes early lead in Mexico

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Rory McIlroy equalled the lowest opening round of his European Tour career to lead the way after day one of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Northern Irishman fired an eagle and seven birdies at Chapultepec Golf Club en route to his fifth first round of 63 and his lowest starting round on the European Tour since 2014.

 

That left him at eight under, one shot clear of 2015 and 2017 champion Dustin Johnson and three ahead of two more Americans in Matt Kuchar and Justin Thomas.

Speaking about his round, McIlroy said, "It felt pretty stress-free. I wouldn't say it was easy. I hit a lot of good golf shots, I left myself a lot of tap-ins for birdies and had a nice eagle on the first hole as well.

“I think for the most part my wedge play was pretty good. I was able to control my distance as well, control trajectories well, but my putting felt great all year, so if I'm excited about anything in my game, it's the way I've putted the last few weeks.

“Also just my attitude. I'm not putting myself under any pressure, I've sort of got things in a really nice perspective. I think that's probably 80 percent of the reason why I'm playing this good golf over the first few weeks of the year.

"I saw some really good signs last year. I played myself into final groups and had some good chances to win and I think this year is just building upon the good stuff that I was able to do last year.”

South African George Coetzee and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton were then four shots off the lead.

McIlroy has not won on the European Tour since 2016 but has finished second five times since then and was showing the sort of form that has brought him four Major Championships.

Hatton finished a shot out of a play-off here last season and turned in level par with a birdie and a bogey before coming to life on the back nine. He holed from 16 feet on the tenth and sandwiched a beautiful tee-shot to tap in range on the par three 13th with up-and-downs from the sand on the 12th and 15th.

Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Americans Billy Horschel and David Lipsky, and England's Ian Poulter were five shots off the lead.