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Triumph, tragedy: 'Sometimes golf doesn't mean a whole lot,' says McNeill

The bulging purse for next week's Open Championship at Royal Hoylake will be £5.4m, an increase of £150,000 on the 2013 fund that was on offer at Muirfield.

The winner of the Claret Jug will earn £975,000, up £30,000 on last year's prize. Professionals who miss the cut will pick up at least £2600, while those who contest the final two rounds will be guaranteed at least £9000.

One man who will be contending for that prize money is the American George McNeill, who plans to play in the Open despite having learned of his sister's death shortly after he qualified with a second-placed finish in the Greenbrier Classic.

The 38-year-old produced a sensational nine-under-par 61, including a run of four successive birdie 3s followed by a hole in one, to finish as Angel Cabrera's closest challenger in West Virginia. In a tearful interview afterwards, he revealed that he had played the round while his mind had been in turmoil over his older sister Michelle's battle with cancer. He said: "Sometimes golf doesn't mean a whole lot. It's hard."

After having returned to the locker room, where he had intentionally left his mobile phone before teeing off, he discovered that Michelle had died, aged 46, around 20 minutes before he headed on to the course.

"She passed at 11:35 this morning," he said. "When I was out there, I had no idea what was going on. But when I talked to [my family] this morning, they said it's going to happen soon. They said it might be the next couple of minutes, it might be the next couple of hours, but it's going to happen soon.

"I was out there with that all day. Then when I finished up, I talked to my mom and she told me."

Prior to his sister's death, McNeill had already withdrawn from next week's John Deere Classic to be with his family, but his plans for Hoylake will not be affected.

He said: "To qualify for the Open Championship is an absolute bonus. I like links golf but I haven't played enough of it to know how to play it. I am going to try to get over there a few days early to get used to it and get used to the time change.

"It's going to mean a lot to me. Playing in major championships is what we are out here for."

Chris Stroud, Cameron Tringale and Billy Hurley III also qualified for the Open after finishing in a share of fourth at White Sulphur Springs.

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