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Richard Bland is making just his second World Golf Championship appearance this week, six years after a T30 finish where he bettered the likes of Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson to name a few.
A lot has changed since then. The Englishman became the oldest first-time winner on the DP World Tour at the age of 48 years and 101 days when he defeated Guido Migliozzi in a playoff at the British Masters.
He then set another record - becoming the oldest player to ever hold a share of the lead after two rounds of the US Open. Whilst it wasn’t the be that week, his season remained impressive. With eight top-10 finishes in the 2021 DP World Tour season, Bland finished a career-best 11th in the Race to Dubai rankings.
Aside from a lot of cash that he ultimately spent on a trip to the Maldives (because, why wouldn’t you?) he earned himself a place in the WGC-Match Play field.
Now he must open his tournament by going head-to-head with Bryson DeChambeau, who is making his return from injury. Whilst the match has a real David vs Goliath feeling to it, Bland was his usual realistic self.
Speaking to the Golf Channel ahead of the tournament, he said: “No one’s expecting me to get through”
Whilst that may be the case, this competition loves to throw up a Cinderella story. Tiger Woods, perhaps the best golfer the game has ever seen, was twice beaten by left-handed Australian Nick O’Hern. Woods, who was the reigning Masters champion at the time, also lost to No.64 seed and tournament reserve Peter O’Malley in 2002. Prior to the match, he too uttered words similar to Bland: “I had a no lose situation. No one expected me to win.”
“I know I’m hitting my second shots in first tomorrow, and that’s fine,” Bland said. “I can’t get too drawn into what Bryson does. I’ve just gotta do what I do really well. I drive the ball a little bit shorter than he does, but I’d like to think that I’m going to be in play most of the time. And then when I get the scoring clubs in my hands, that’s where I’ve gotta be very good this week. Whenever I have a wedge in my hand, if I can get that in close and put some pressure on him, then who knows.
“We play two completely different games, but that’s the beauty of match play, isn’t it? He’s the favourite, of course he is, but he’s got a game on his hands.”
Bland is planning on qualifying for the PGA Tour Champions at the end of this year but before then, he has his eyes on one thing – a trip to Augusta National. The 49-year old is ranked 60th in the Official World Golf Ranking and knows that a strong finish could push him inside the top-50 where he will earn an invite to golfing paradise.
“I’ve just gotta enjoy it,” Bland said. “I have nothing to lose. Hopefully, if I can have a great week, there’s a chance of getting to Augusta.” No one would begrudge him that.
James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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