HOYLAKE, England (AP) — If organizers of the British Open needed any vindication of their historic decision to use a two-tee start at Royal Liverpool on Saturday, it came from Rory McIlroy about 30 minutes after his round.
Torrential rain was pounding the roof of the media tent as McIlroy was holding a news conference, discussing his third-round 68 that inched him closer to a first claret jug.
Asked if The R&A made the correct decision to go off two tees and send the whole field out early, the tournament leader looked up and pointed to the skies.
"It was a great decision," McIlroy said. "They got it right."
In a move that riled traditionalists, The R&A looked at the forecast of thunderstorms and heavy rain and decided late Friday to make an unprecedented schedule change. Half of the field was to begin on the 10th hole and all 72 remaining players were to set out within two hours of each other.
Sure enough, the heavy rain arrived — 30 minutes after McIlroy rolled in his eagle 3 at No. 18 to secure a six-shot lead with the last action of the day.
Players finishing their third rounds were generally accepting of the two-tee start.
"We've never done it before at the Open Championship," said 2011 champion Darren Clarke, who was disbelieving when he was told over dinner on Friday. "It's one of the beauties — you get good tee times, you get bad tee times.
"But they had to do it today, and it looks like they've made the perfect call."
There had been only intermittent outbreaks of rain and barely any wind at Hoylake by the time McIlroy wrapped up the third round shortly before 4 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT).
McIlroy's group finished about three hours earlier than usual on a Saturday at the British Open.
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