Returning Rory McIlroy one off the lead at WGC-Mexico Championship

MEXICO CITY MEXICO- MARCH 02 Jordan Spieth reacts after just missing a birdie putt on the first hole green during the first round of the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec

The Irish man may not have been in competitive action in recent weeks, but he has not been far from the headlines following his controversial round alongside US President Donald Trump last month, which sparked plenty of controversy.

He could not close out 72 holes in the tournaments he played on the west coast as he often posted a final nine-hole score well over par so there is a long way to go. His complexion told a story even before words were spoken.

McIlroy played his first tournament since mid-January as he carded a three-under-par 68 to be only one shot adrift after Thursday's first round.

Johnson, who played with McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama on Thursday, opened with 1-under 70 and wasn't surprised to see the Northern Irishman play well. I'm just a bit weak - I didn't get much sleep last night and haven't eaten since breakfast.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is at 1 under after a shaky day on the greens. If this was McIlroy running on empty, a spectacular weekend may follow.


Asked if he felt he was behind his rivals in terms of preparation for the Masters, which begins on April 6, McIlroy replied: "I don't know".

"I ate the local stuff at dinner, which is what you're supposed to do". I'm sorry if I sort of, I don't know, pissed people off. I'm glad that I only had three holes left after that, I was sort of lagging on the way in. Here, symptoms would be rendered even more acute by searing heat plus altitude of more than 7,500ft. "I stayed patient and the week longer will definitely pay off". "Hopefully over these next three competitive weeks that I'm playing - here, [the Arnold Palmer Invitational at] Bay Hill and the [WGC] Match Play, hopefully I can get that and hopefully I feel like I've played enough to go into Augusta and feel ready and not feel underprepared".

McIlroy issued a positive outlook on his hitherto problematic rib.

"So I feel like I'm probably stronger now than I was in November or December a year ago". The rib is fine, it's great actually. He also spoke about his rib saying it's great and that he is playing lot of stress-free golf at the moment. I scored poorly. I missed five putts inside four, five feet. McIlroy responded brilliantly at the next with a 368-yard drive which was followed by an approach to 25ft from whence he converted for an eagle.

The rest of the field did not suffer stomach trouble but it was a testing day for them in high altitude.

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