Saturday 17 March 2018

McIlroy praises two-tee start call

Rory McIlroy was pleased he avoided the worst of the weather on Saturday
Rory McIlroy was pleased he avoided the worst of the weather on Saturday

Rory McIlroy praised the R&A's decision to employ a two-tee start for the first time in Open Championship history at Royal Liverpool on Saturday.

A weather forecast predicting "significant risk" of thunderstorms prompted the break with tradition, with play beginning at 9am from the first and 10th tee and the 72 players split into groups of three rather than two.

It looked to have been an unnecessary precaution when there was no disruption to play and heavy rain which made life difficult for the early starters had stopped as the leaders went out at 11am.

But the rain returned as McIlroy gave his post-round press conference, making it difficult to hear what the 25-year-old said and leaving standing water on some of the greens.

Asked if that vindicated the decision, McIlroy laughed and pointed to the media centre roof before adding: "Definitely. I think it's the second best decision the R&A made this year, the first being bringing the Open back to Portrush.

"But I think it was a great decision. They got it right. You don't want to be stuck out in that. Well, I definitely wouldn't want to be stuck out in that. I thought they made a great decision by doing what they did. And looking at the forecast tomorrow, it looks nice and we'll get a full day's play."

Sergio Garcia, who goes into Sunday's final round seven behind McIlroy, added on Twitter: " Best call ever from the R&A to play early @The_Open because of weather, well done! @McIlroyRory is on a roll but we'll try to give him a run."

A spokesman for the R&A said: "We didn't move to a two-tee start lightly. The R&A much prefers a single-tee start and we'll return to two balls all off the first tee tomorrow.

"Given the weather forecast and the huge deluge around 20 minutes after play concluded we feel absolutely vindicated in making the decision we did."

Former Open champion Darren Clarke said: " Well, I think obviously it's easy to say now that it was the wrong decision looking at the weather that we've had thus far.

"But if they have a couple of bolts of lightning in the next couple of hours it's going to mess everybody's day up, isn't it?

"They've had to do what they had to do to try and get it done today, and they're trying to do what's best for the tournament. So there can be no blame apportioned at all to the R&A for that."

Press Association

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