HOYLAKE, England -- For the first time in the 143 years of Open Championships, the tournament will have a two-tee weekend start in threesomes.
A severe weather forecast that includes rare thunderstorms and lightning and Amber weather alert in England prompted R&A officials to make the move, with tee times beginning at 9 a.m. local time Saturday off the first and 10th tees. The cut Friday was 2 over. There will be a 72-player field on the weekend. Saturday's third round begins at 5 a.m. ET on ESPN.
"All the professional advice we are receiving tells us that significant disruption is highly likely, and it's only responsible of us to react appropriate to that,'' said David Rickman, the R&A's executive director of rules and equipment standards.
Typically an Open would be played through any and all weather; the only situations that would stop play are excessive wind conditions (as happened at St. Andrews in 2010) or lightning (which occurred in 1977 at Turnberry and again in 1985 at Royal St. George's).
But heavy rain would not stop play. The nature of links courses allows them to drain due to their sandy, seaside base, meaning Open courses almost never become unplayable due to standing water.
"If it's just raining hard and wind, and just generally unpleasant, they'll be out there playing,'' Rickman said. "But as soon as we have thunderstorms, I'm afraid we are not playing golf. This is primarily in relation to the thunderstorm activity and obviously if we get extremely heavy rain, we may have a course that is not essentially playable.
"We're not looking to in any way lessen the challenge the players will experience. I think they're plenty challenged by Hoylake at the moment.''
The idea is to condense the window of play from 10 hours with 72 players making the 36-hole cut to approximately seven hours.
Two-tee starts are the normal way of doing business on the PGA Tour and European Tour for the first two rounds. The Open is able to go off one tee even in the early rounds due to the amount of daylight in the summer. Play did not conclude Friday until after 9 p.m.
After the cut is made, the tours go to twosomes on the weekends, although weather concerns often have them playing threesomes off two tees.
The hope is to get the third round completed Saturday, and if not, it would conclude Sunday prior to the start of the fourth round.