Palmer receives Open invitation

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GOLF : A tip on how to make a few bob for the New Year: buy shares in Kleenex before the start of the 124th Open Championship at St Andrews.

The Royal and Ancient has paved the way for a return to the home of golf of Arnold Palmer and if he completes the entry form you can bet your bottom dollar there won't be a dry eye in the house.

When Arnie made his swansong in the US Open at Oakmont in June, the scene around the 18th hole was overwhelming.

It was his 32nd and last appearance in the championship and afterwards they brought him into the press tent.

He sat with his head draped in a towel and, when he attempted to speak, his words were drowned with tears. He was given a standing ovation. It is not difficult to understand why the R&A want possibly the most popular player in the history of the game to play in the 124th Open, which will be held from 20-23 July. Palmer, who was born in 1929, played in his first Open at St Andrews in 1960 and won the old silver claret jug in 1961 and 1962.

For the first time the R&A will give exemptions not only to former Open champions who are 65 or under on the final day of the championship but to the current senior Open champion (Tom Wargo) and the European amateur champion (Stephen Gallacher), increasing the field to 159.

Once again prize money will be increased, an extra £150,000 bringing the total prize money for the 1995 Open to £1,250,000. The first prize of £125,000 shows an increase of £15,000 on the Open at Turnberry last July. Any player making the halfway cut will receive a minimum of £5,000.

"We believe it is important to spread the prize money as widely as possible," Michael Bonallack, the secretary of the R&A, said.

"It is a philosophy that not only recognises the cost of competing for overseas players but offers tangible support to our far-reaching exemption policy. These two elements are still the most effective way of maintaining the international strength of thefield which is what sets the Open apart."