McIlroy Takes 3-Shot Lead in Second Round of British Open

Rory McIlroy leads Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia by three strokes during third-round play at golf’s British Open, where the threat of thunderstorms led the tournament to employ a two-tee start for the first time in its history.

McIlroy, the two-time major champion from Northern Ireland who shot consecutive 6-under-par 66s to take a four-stroke lead into the weekend, is even par for the day through nine holes at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. American Fowler and Garcia of Spain are 9 under.

American Dustin Johnson, who began the day alone in second place at 8 under, had gone 30 holes without a bogey before dropping shots at the seventh and eighth holes. He’s 1-over par at 8 under, while Victor Dubuisson of France and American Jim Furyk are also 7 under.

The final pairing of McIlroy and Johnson teed off a couple of hours earlier than they would have due to the threat of dangerous weather. Play started this morning from both the 1st and 10th tee, with the field split into groups of three rather than two. Rain has fallen intermittently during their round, and it’s about 67 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius).

Tiger Woods, the 14-time major champion who is playing his first major this year following back surgery, is 2 under today with three birdies and a bogey through eight holes, leaving him even par for the tournament. Defending champion Phil Mickelson has played 16 holes and is 1 under for the tournament and during his round.

McIlroy, 25, has major titles at the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship. He won both tournaments by eight strokes.