Johnson takes two-shot lead at WGC-Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Dustin Johnson fired his second straight bogey-free round on Friday, a four-under par 67 that gave him a two-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Johnson’s methodical approach at Club de Golf Chapultepec paid dividends as he overhauled first-round leader McIlroy on a day when 14-time major champion Tiger Woods moved into the top 10 with a five-under 66.

“I’ve just done a really good job with controlling my distance with my irons and giving myself a lot of looks at birdies,” said Johnson, who had never before in his US PGA Tour career opened a tournament with two bogey-free rounds.

The 2017 WGC-Mexico champion said he enjoyed the challenge of adjusting to the altitude.

“It makes you focus, you’ve got to think and you’re doing a lot of calculations with the numbers, trying to figure out how far the ball is going to actually go,” he said.

Dustin Johnson plans his shot on the 15th green during the second round of the PGA World Golf Championship, at Chapultepec’s Golf Club in Mexico City. – AFP

McIlroy, who opened on Thursday with an eight-under par 63, picked up where he left off with three birdies in his first four holes.

But he found the water for a bogey at the sixth and then made a double-bogey at the par-four ninth, where he was 15 feet from the fringe with his second shot but needed four putts from there.

He signed for a one-under 71 for nine-under 133. He was joined by Kuchar, who opened with four straight birdies in a four-under 67.

Spain’s Sergio Garcia and England’s Tommy Fleetwood were tied for fourth on 135, Garcia posting a 66 and Fleetwood a 65 that started with back-to-back eagles at the first and second – both par-fours.

Fleetwood tied for low round of the day with Phil Mickelson, who had opened his title defence with a horrendous 79, only to bounce back with a bogey-free 65.

Woods climbed the leaderboard with a five-under 66 that featured six birdies and an unlikely par at his finishing hole, the par-four ninth.

In a fairway bunker off the tee, Woods produced a vintage recovery shot, cutting a nine-iron around a tree, the ball spinning back some 20 feet toward the hole.

It left him an 11-foot birdie putt that lipped out.

“The ball was sitting down just enough where I didn’t think I could clear the tree,” said Woods, who first went for his eight-iron but decided it would come out too hot.

“I went back to the nine-iron, I realised ‘I’ve really got to slice this thing,’” he said.

“I opened up and gave it as much of a cut motion as I could and it worked out.”

Woods had made a scrambling start to his round, rolling in a nine-footer for his first birdie at the 12th. He birdied 14 and got up and down for birdie from a greenside bunker at 15.

He gave a shot back at 17, but drained a 13-footer at 18 to make the turn three-under. He rolled in a 22-footer for birdie at the third and picked up another shot at the fifth to stand tied for eighth – six shots off the lead – heading into the weekend.