Weather doesn't dampen mood at Open

Defending champion Phil Mickelson kicked off with a birdie three to move to one under

Defending champion Phil Mickelson kicked off with a birdie three to move to one under

First published in National Sport News © by

Heavy rain did not deter spectators from turning out in force to watch an historic third day of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

With an amber weather warning in place for heavier rain and potential thunderstorms, the R&A made the unprecedented decision to operate a two-tee start for the first time in the tournament's long and illustrious history.

It meant all 72 players would be on the course by 11.01am with two of the biggest names Rory McIlroy, leading on 12 under, and 14-time major winner Tiger Woods, at two over, both last off but on the first and 10th holes respectively.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson was in the first three-ball off the first at 9am and, watched by an almost full grandstand behind the tee, he produced a birdie three to move to one under.

The left-hander was joined in his three-ball by US PGA champions past and present with Keegan Bradley, who won his first major in 2011, making par and Jason Dufner bogeying.

Over at the 10th Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, Englishman Chris Rodgers and American Ben Martin all began with par.

Mickelson, wearing black gloves on both hands, bogeyed the second after missing the green and failing to get his parachute shot up and over a bank, resorting to two putts for his bogey.

Course officials closed Gate Six to the public to allow transportation of players to the 10th, which England's Paul Casey eagled with a 15-foot putt to move to one under.

As the rain eased and scoring conditions improved, American Jimmy Walker birdied the second and third to move to six under while compatriot Rickie Fowler birdied his first two holes to be two better.

This year's two major winners, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, both held the 36-hole lead so McIlroy teed off with the weight of expectation hanging over him.

After a perfect drive he tugged a wedge into a greenside bunker, splashed out to 12 feet and bogeyed just as he did on Friday.

It meant there was an immediate two-shot swing as playing partner Dustin Johnson flicked a sand wedge to three feet for birdie as McIlroy's lead was cut to two.

Halfway around the course Woods began with a birdie at the par-five 10th after ripping a driver - the club which almost caused him to miss the cut on Friday - off the tee and two-putting from 40 feet to pick up a shot.

However, at one over he was still 12 strokes behind McIlroy but there was certainly a score to be made as South Korea's Byeong-Hun An showed with four birdies in his first six holes to reach five under.

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