Rory McIlroy had more trouble with his stomach than his ribs. The golf was just fine.
Playing for the first time in seven weeks because of a rib injury, McIlroy coped with a bad stomach and the high altitude with a three-under-par 68 that left him one shot out of a six-way tie for the lead as the Mexico Championship made a strong debut Thursday in Mexico City.
Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, two of the four players who were in the field for the first edition of this World Golf Championships event in 1999, each shot 67 and were joined at the top by PGA champion Jimmy Walker, Ross Fisher, Jon Rahm of Spain and Ryan Moore.
Westwood and Walker each made it to six under until two bogeys over their final few holes.
McIlroy, who can return to No. 1 with a victory this week, had not competed since Jan. 15 because of a hairline fracture of a rib. That was never a problem. Leaning on his driver as he waited to tee off midway through his round, he said he spent most of the night in the bathroom and “the altitude doesn’t help.”
He made the golf look easy, rarely getting out of position while playing aggressively with a driver early in the round and surging late with an eagle on the par-5 sixth. British Open champion Henrik Stenson wasn’t so fortunate. He withdrew after 11 holes with a stomach virus.
“I’ve waited long enough to play,” McIlroy said. “I wanted to get out here and be competitive and try to shoot a good score. I don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I did in China last year when I had the same thing. So hopefully, it’s just a day thing and it will pass.”
The biggest surprise was Chapultepec Golf Club, hosting the best players in the world at nearly 7,800 feet. Roberto Castro hit a tee shot 407 yards. Mickelson hit one 379 yards, his longest in recent years without hitting a cart path.
“Even though the golf course doesn’t play long because of the altitude, it is challenging in many other respects with the precision of the irons, the small targets that the greens present and the speed and undulation of the greens,” Mickelson said.
Dustin Johnson, in his debut at No. 1 in the world, hit three-wood on the 316-yard first hole that bounded over the green, into the hedges and out of bounds. For all that length, no one could do better than 67, and only 27 players in the 77-man field broke par.
Wie takes lead in HSBC Women’s Champions event
Michelle Wie took the first-round lead in the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, making six birdies in a 10-hole stretch in a six-under 66.
Winless since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, Wie had eight birdies and two bogeys on Sentosa’s Tanjong Course. She’s playing the tournament on a sponsor exemption after failing to earn a spot in the field.
Fellow major champions Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke Henderson, Mo Martin and Anna Nordqvist shot 67. Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer shot 68, and Lydia Ko opened with a 69.
Three-way tie atop Tshwane Open leaderboard
France’s Gregory Havret, South Africa’s Haydn Porteous and Sweden’s Alexander Bjork each shot six-under 65 to share the first-round lead in the Tshwane Open.
Scotland’s Duncan Stewart was a stroke back at Pretoria Country Club in South Africa along with Finland’s Mikko Korhonen, South Africa’s Justin Walters, Australia’s Ben Eccles and England’s Toby Tree.