Well you knew the 2019 WGC-Mexico Championship leaderboard would be good, but I'm not sure I expected it to be this good after just 18 holes of play on Thursday. Rory McIlroy (-8) leads by one over Dustin Johnson (-7) and three over Justin Thomas (-5). Quite possibly the three best golfers on the planet are 1-2-3 on the board at Chapultepec.
First place -- Rory McIlroy (-8): After making an eagle on his 10th hole (the first hole on the course) to get to 6 under and following it with another birdie at his 11th, it looked as if 59 (or at least the course record of 62) would be in play. An even-par finish over the last five holes nixed that, but it also gave McIlroy a stable one-stroke lead over D.J. and, probably more importantly, three strokes over the rest of the field.
McIlroy was, probably unsurprisingly, No. 1 in the field from tee to green, but he was also -- and this is maybe more surprising -- No. 3 in the field in putting. If he even approaches those numbers the rest of the week, it's a wrap. Also, when he's hitting wedges like this, it also might be a wrap.
McIlroy has played well here before, too, notching a top-10 finish back in 2017 even when he wasn't necessarily at the top of his game. Now, it looks like he's feeling it, and I'm not sure if anyone -- even D.J. -- can keep pace.
Last place -- Sanghyun Park (+9): It's a tough day when you're down 17 to the leader after just 18 holes. Related: Phil Mickelson shot a 79 (!) and is clearly out of gas after playing Phoenix-Pebble Beach-Riviera-Mexico consecutively. Take some time off, Lefty!
Other contenders -- Dustin Johnson (-7), Justin Thomas (-5), Matt Kuchar (-5): After the whole saga with Matt Kuchar and his Mexican caddie, David "El Tucan" Ortiz at Mayakoba last fall, how hilarious would it be if he won again in Mexico this time around? Also, Thomas might be a robot. To bounce back from last week's loss and week of 4 a.m. wake-up calls with a 66 in Round 1 this week is herculean. I'm here for the D.J.-J.T.-McIlroy shootout!
What did Tiger Woods do? Other than making a double-bogey six at the first, a 305-yard par 4? Woods climbed out of that hole with some nice birdies on the front nine but shuffled his way to the finish line with an even-par 71. He's not really in it but not really out of it, either. He's where he's been for most of the year: just hanging around.
Who had a great day? Johnson might own this course. After winning in 2017 and finishing in the top 10 last season, he looks poised for another spectacular week. He shot the only bogey-free round of the day and (this is not really a surprise) led the field in driving on Thursday.
Who had a lousy day? Le Artist, Bryson DeChambeau, had a tough one. Not only did he shoot a 75 in front of his pal Tiger Woods, but their group also got put on the clock late in the day for slow play. All of this just a few days after we were told that he's someday going to be unstoppable from a neurological standpoint.
Stat of the day: This stat didn't materially change today, but it's a reminder of how hilariously dominant Woods has been at these things over the years.
Most rounds led/co-led, WGC stroke play events all-time:— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) February 18, 2019
Adam Scott, Jim Furyk 8 each
Shot of the day: This shot from McIlroy at the par-4 first hole (as I noted at the top) was astonishing. It almost fell, and then he acted like he was trying to get it to fall. From 305 yards out!
What to watch on Day 2: Does McIlroy gallop, or does he come back to the field a little bit? So many of his wins have been from way out front early, and he's off to the start he needs to do that. If he follows the 63 with a 65 or something in that range, it could be curtains at Chapultepec.
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