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McIlroy says he's fighting fit after solid comeback

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy found the thin air of Mexico City to his liking as he enjoyed a solid start on his return to competitive action in the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Ulsterman, who had been out with a rib injury, was reported to be under the weather but still signed for a three-under-par 68.

"The rib is fine, it's great actually," McIlroy said. "How I've responded the last couple of weeks, ramping up the practice and then playing my first full competitive round today, I didn't feel it at all so all 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 to playing four days in a row.

"I'm taking next week off to see how everything reacts and responds so it was the logical place to come back. I stayed patient and the week longer will definitely pay off."

McIlroy has played just once in 2017 due to a rib injury which saw him push through the pain barrier before losing to Graeme Storm in a play-off for the South African Open in January.

The 27-year-old still arrived at Chapultepec Golf Club knowing that he could reclaim top spot in the world rankings for the first time since August 2015 by winning his third World Golf Championship title, as long as current No.1 Dustin Johnson finishes joint fourth or worse.

Starting on the back nine of a course which reaches a maximum of 7,800 feet above sea level, McIlroy holed from 15 feet for birdie on the par-five 11th and added seven pars in succession to reach the turn in 35.

The four-time Major winner then drove into a greenside bunker on the short par-four first and got up and down for birdie to reach two under par, while Johnson ran up a double bogey after hitting his tee shot out of bounds.

Forty-nine of the world's top 50 are in the 77-man field, with World No.2 Jason Day absent due to illness.

McIlroy dropped his first shot of the day by three-putting the fifth from long range, but produced the ideal response by holing from 30 feet for an eagle on the par-five sixth.

That took McIlroy to three under par but did not get him closer to the lead, with Ryder Cup pal Lee Westwood taking over at the top of the leaderboard on five under thanks to birdies on the first, third and fourth.

Westwood, who is seeking a first WGC title at the 56th attempt, enjoyed a one-shot lead over Ross Fisher and Jimmy Walker, who had set the clubhouse target on four under par after matching rounds of 67.

There was not such good news for European No.1 Henrik Stenson, the Open champion withdrawing with a reported stomach virus midway through the opening round.

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