Rory McIlroy was in control of all facets of his game as he charged into the first-round lead with a six-under-par 65 at the WGC-Mexico Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy smashed his drives prodigious distances in the thin Mexico City air and complemented his long game with precise putting in earning a two-shot advantage over Americans Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson at Club de Golf Chapultepec.

FULL LEADERBOARD

"I like this place, like the golf course, and have always played well at altitude for whatever reason that is," said the world number one after capping off his day by sinking a 10-foot birdie at the last.

McIlroy won the most recent World Golf Championships tournament in Shanghai in November, and last Sunday tied for fifth at the PGA Tour event in Los Angeles after starting the final round tied for the lead.

"I putted a little better today than at Riviera last week and took advantage of how I drove the ball," said the Northern Irishman, who reverted to his old putter after a short, ill-fated experiment with a different short stick.

"Happy to have old faithful back in the bag and it worked well today," he said. 

Shane Lowry is seven off McIlroy after getting home with a one-over 72. Graeme McDowell meanwhile is way off the pace on five-over following a tough opening 76.