Rory McIlroy enjoyed an encouraging return to action as he defied the effects of a stomach virus to fire an opening 68 at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
McIlroy has been sidelined since suffering a stress fracture in his ribs during the BMW SA Open in mid January, but he looked in fine form on a tricky Chapultepec course to end the first round just one shot off the lead.
The world No 3 was one of several players in the field feeling under the weather due to a stomach bug, but it did not stop him an eagle and two birdies while dropping just a solitary stroke in a solid round of golf.
The highlight of McIlroy’s card was a 30-foot putt for eagle at the long sixth hole – his 15th – as he produced a positive response to a bogey at the fifth, and he declared afterwards that he sustained no reaction to his rib problem.
McIlroy also explained his reasoning for not making his return to competitive golf at last week’s Honda Classic, and he also believes the enforced break will serve him well in the long run.
“The rib is fine,” said McIlroy. “I didn’t feel it at all so it’s all positive. How I’ve responded the last couple of weeks, ramping up the practice and then playing my first full competitive round here, I didn’t feel it at all so all is positive in that regard.
“I probably could have played the Honda Classic last week but I wasn’t going to know how my body was going to react if I played four days in a row. It would have been nice to sleep in my own bed and play the Honda, but I decided to give it another week.
“I’m taking next week off to see how everything reacts and responds so this was the logical place to come back. I stayed patient and the week longer will definitely pay off.”
McIlroy was able to complete his round despite feeling unwell, but the stomach virus proved too much for his Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson.
The Swede made a superb start with birdies at the first two holes, but he then dropped five shots in just four holes from the fourth – including a four-putt double-bogey at the seventh – and he decided to withdraw after a par at the 11th.