Open's 'modest' prize rise

Prize money at The Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich, has risen to £3.9m - an increase of £100,000. The winner, however, will receive the same £700,000 cheque handed to Ernie Els when he triumphed at Muirfield last summer after a five-hole play-off.

The additional purse has been distributed through the field, second place going up from £400,000 to £420,000.

"We have raised the prize money by a modest amount following several years of substantial increases," David Hill, the championship secretary, said. "And in continuing with our policy of rewarding players throughout the field, we have distributed the increase through to the player finishing in 70th place."

In the 10 years since Greg Norman won the last Open at Sandwich, the first prize has leapt from £100,000 to £700,000 and the total prize money from £1m to £3.9m. This year's Open runs from 17 to 20 July.

The world No 1, Tiger Woods, is hoping he can sustain the steady progress made since his knee operation when he plays his last tournament before the Open, the Western Open, which begins tomorrow at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Illinois.

Previously bracketed as a major championship alongside the US Open, The Open and USPGA Championship, the tournament is the second oldest on the US Tour and this week is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The Western Open was first held at Glen View Golf Club in Chicago in 1899 and only the US Open, which began in 1895, is more established in the States.

Woods, 27, has reduced his playing schedule following knee surgery in December, but the American is happy with the pace of his recovery. "I'm right on the timetable as far as the number of tournaments," said Woods, who has won three times in nine PGA Tour starts this season. "I'm not going to play as many as I did last year ... We're going to take it nice and slow this year and see how it goes. So far, it's been very successful, I've paced myself well."

Woods, who first played in the Western as an amateur in 1994 and won the tournament in 1997 and 1999, heads a strong field of 156. Ten of the world's top 20 are entered this week, with Els and the world No 4, Davis Love III, among the notable absentees.

THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP (Royal St George's, Sandwich): Prize money breakdown: 1 £700,000; 2 £420,000; 3 £270,000; 4 £206,000; 5 £165,000; 6 £145,000; 7 £124,000; 8 £103,000; 9 £92,500; 10 £82,000; 11 £72,000; 12 £67,000; 13 £62,000; 14 £57,000; 15 £52,000; 16 £49,000; 17 £47,000; 18 £45,000; 19 £43,000; 20 £41,000.

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