McIlroy holds three shot lead at Open
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy watches a tee shot during the British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, northwest England, on July 19, 2014 - by Peter Muhly
The two-time major winning Ulsterman shook off a bogey at the first to tighten up his game with three straight pars before a key birdie at the par five fifth lifted him to 12-under par and kept charging American Rickie Fowler three shots back.
Fowler struck three birdies over his first five holes and was tied with Spaniard Sergio Garcia in second while South African Charl Schwartzel, American Dustin Johnson and Spaniard Sergio Garcia were a further shot back on eight under.
Ryder Cup bound Frenchman Victor Dubuisson was enjoying a fine front nine as he got onto the leaderboard with four birdies and a tie for fourth in a trio that included Jim Furyk and fellow American Dustin Johnson.
Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, the Open winner in 2011 at Royal St. Georges, got himself into contention on five under with a run of four birdies and a chance to finish his round ahead of the bad weather as an early starter.
The field began at both the first and 10th holes for the first time in Open history as bad weather overnight and the expected thunder and lightning forced organisers to reorganise he schedule.