Golf: Open raises prizes but cuts the cut

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The Independent Online
Golf

TIM GLOVER

Tony Jacklin peaked too soon. When he won the Open Championship at Royal Lytham in 1969, he won pounds 4,250. The player who lifts the silver claret jug on the Lancashire links in July will receive pounds 200,000, an increase of pounds 75,000 on last year.

Total prize-money is going up by pounds 150,000 to pounds 1.4m, but it is only the players in the top seven who will benefit. The winner's cheque represents a rise of 60 per cent and the runner-up gets pounds 150,000, an increase of pounds 50,000.

"We have substantially increased the prize-money at the top in order to truly reflect the status of the Open in relation to the other major championships," Michael Bonallack, secretary of the Royal and Ancient Club, said.

The first prize for the Open is still less than the amounts on offer for the Masters, US Open and US PGA. Last season, Ben Crenshaw won $360,000 (pounds 243,000) at Augusta and Corey Pavin collected $350,000 for becoming the US Open champion. In a table of golf's richest purses, the Open also lags behind several non-European events that do not carry major status.

The Open, which makes a profit of pounds 3m-4m a year, has abandoned the 10- shot rule by which anyone within 10 strokes of the leader after 36 holes qualified for the final two rounds. In 1991 at Royal Birkdale, the rule allowed 113 players to make the cut and last year at St Andrews there were 103 survivors. Cumbersome fields are not only inconvenient for the Open, but they cost the R and A dear in having to pay more prize money to more people. In July, only the leading 70-plus ties will survive.

All members of the European and US Ryder Cup teams from last September are exempt from qualifying and the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side will not have to go through regional qualifying. The deadline for buying discounted season tickets for the Open is 31 January.

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