Rory McIlroy high on confidence after hot start to WGC-Mexico
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 22/02/19 6:21am
Rory McIlroy was delighted with his attitude and his putting after setting the first-round pace with a superb eight-under 63 at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
McIlroy came into the first World Golf Championship event of the year on the back of three consecutive top-five finishes on the PGA Tour, and he continued his encouraging form with a round that featured seven birdies and an eagle-two at the par-four first, where he came within inches of holing his 305-yard two-iron from the tee.
The 29-year-old missed only one green in regulation, a pulled drive into the trees at the par-five sixth leading to his only blemish of the day, from which he bounced back with a birdie at the eighth which ensured the outright lead over Dustin Johnson.
McIlroy began with a solid par at the 10th and rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the next green which set the tone for the majority of his round, converting further chances at the 12th, 15th and 17th to turn in 32.
He then hit the shot of the day at the first, a towering fade with a long-iron which pitched softly on the front of the green and missed the cup by less than six inches before settling six feet beyond the pin.
The world No 8 rattled in the putt for eagle and picked up further birdies at two of the next three holes after a pair of precise approaches to inside five feet, and he did well to escape with just a bogey at the sixth when his ambitious second clattered into a branch and travelled barely 50 yards.
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But McIlroy holed from 20 feet to repair the damage at the tough eighth, and a cast-iron par at nine closed out his second round of 63 in the last week.
"It felt pretty stress-free," said McIlroy afterwards. "I wouldn't say it was easy, but 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 per cent 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."
Even his mistake at the sixth could not sour his mood, and he added: "The one branch it could not hit, it hit! But it all levels out at the end of the day.
"I'm just in a good frame of mind, managing my game well, putting went good. And if you putt well, it takes pressure off the rest of your game. And that's where it's at."