Rory McIlroy fires opening 68 despite vomiting all night
The four-time major winner is one shot off the lead in Mexico despite food poisoning
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his tee shot on the 11th hole during the first round of the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship at Club De Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
The medical bulletin issued by Rory McIlroy was not as anticipated. Whereas understandable interest surrounded the state of the 27-year-old’s rib cage after a seven-week break caused by a fracture, McIlroy stepped from the course in Mexico City to cite another battle altogether – food poisoning. His complexion told a story even before words were spoken.
McIlroy’s opening round of 68, three under par, at the first WGC of the year is therefore even more worthy of credit than would have already been the case after a fitness-imposed absence. The Northern Irishman said he had been awake since 3am on Thursday. “I was worshipping the porcelain bowl,” was the more detailed explanation of hotel bathroom events.
And still, McIlroy outscored his playing partner, the world No1 Dustin Johnson, by two. Johnson’s pain was on account of seven missed putts of 10ft or less. If this was McIlroy running on empty, a spectacular weekend may follow.
“I don’t really want to tell you what I’m feeling right now,” said McIlroy with only half a smile. “I’m definitely a bit weak. I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast, so I’m a little weak.
“I ate the local stuff at dinner, which is what you’re supposed to do, I think. I don’t know what it was specifically. I ate with [his fiancee] Erica and my parents and they seemed fine this morning. I don’t know what I had. I didn’t get much sleep, I was pretty much up from three o’clock.”
McIlroy perhaps senses some kind of WGC culinary curse. When in Shanghai for their version of the same event in late 2015, he was struck by food poisoning after eating a club sandwich. Here, symptoms would be rendered even more acute by searing heat plus altitude of more than 7,500ft.
“I’ve waited long enough to play,” McIlroy added. “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, so hopefully it’s just a day thing, it will pass and I’ll wake up feeling a bit better tomorrow.”
McIlroy issued a positive outlook on his hitherto problematic rib. “It’s great how it responded,” he said. “This was my first competitive game back but it didn’t feel like that at all, which is as much as I could have hoped for. The rib is fine, it’s great actually. I played a lot of stress-free golf.”
But for missed opportunities, which were not even on account of poor putts, McIlroy’s score would have been lower. His only aberration came at the 5th, his 14th, where a loose second shot preceded a three putt. 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.
McIlroy was not the only one to suffer Mexican stomach trouble. Henrik Stenson, the Open champion, withdrew after 12 holes of his first round, citing serious discomfort in the same area. He was three over par at the time.
Lee Westwood enjoyed a more comfortable day. The Englishman, who holds the record number of WGC appearances now at 56, held the lead by two at six under par before a late stumble. Nonetheless, Westwood would surely have taken his 67 before he had played his opening tee shot. Ross Fisher and Phil Mickelson matched Westwood’s score.
Danny Willett’s struggles continued, the Masters champion slumping to a 76. Jordan Spieth rallied from a position of plus two after nine to return a level-par 71.