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Picking an Open winner becomes ever harder in era without a hierarchy | Andy Bull

Rory McIlroy says ‘the margins are so fine’ between the leading players while Jordan Spieth cannot identify who would be in a ‘big four’, which means mental strength and adaptability could be key at Royal Birkdale

The rain came late to Royal Birkdale, hours after the weathermen reckoned it would. They said the storm that swept across the south on Tuesday night would arrive around 11 in the morning. Then they pushed it back to two in the afternoon, then again to five in the evening.

The diligent spectators kept their umbrellas furled and their anoraks packed through the morning and afternoon, while the air all around grew thick and sticky, everyone but the golfers grateful for the cool wind blowing in off the Irish Sea. But then, forecasting is a tricky business. Just ask the punters here. There are 156 players in the field and if you start counting the contenders among them you will soon run out of fingers. And toes.

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