The 48-year-old had the honour of striking the opening tee shot at Royal St George's

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Richard Bland Gets The 149th Open Underway

Richard Bland was given the honour of striking the first blow at the long-awaited 149th edition of The Open, 725 days on from the final round at Royal Portrush in 2019.

At 6.35am, in front of a generous crowd and alongside fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan and Marcus Armitage, Bland found the fairway on the demanding first hole at Royal St George’s.

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“Truly an honour that I’ve been given the opening tee shot @The Open, something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Bland tweeted on Tuesday upon learning the news. 

He would go on to par the hole and card a level-par front-nine on a warm but windy day in Sandwich.

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It’s the latest in what has been a whirlwind two months for the journeyman pro. From winning his first European Tour event at the 478th time of asking at the British Masters, to leading the US Open after 36 holes at Torrey Pines, the likeable 48-year-old is reaping the rewards for his perseverance and longevity.

Despite turning pro in 1996, this is only Bland’s fifth major start and third in The Open. His first appearance in the game’s oldest tournament came in 1998 at Royal Birkdale where he missed the cut.

And it would be a long 11-year wait before he would experience the thrill of major championship golf again. In 2009, Bland qualified for the US Open at Bethpage Black but his week was cut short at the halfway mark.

The Englishman returned to Royal Birkdale in 2017, recording his best major finish – a tie for 22nd – as Jordan Spieth lifted the Claret Jug for the first time, before eventually finishing in a tie for 50th at this year’s US Open after taking a surprise lead into Saturday.