48-year-old Englishman Richard Bland waited 20 years for his first win on the European Tour. This week at Torrey Pines, he’ll sleep on the 36-hole lead at the US Open
Richard Bland He is not the typical leader of a great championship. His beard is gray. It doesn’t hit very far from the tee. Despite a professional career dating back to before many of the current US Open players were born, he does not have much experience in these types of scenarios.
But 2021 is turning out to be a year in which Bland, the 48-year-old Englishman, breaks all expectations. First, he won the Betfred British Masters last month, his first European Tour win after two decades and 478 career starts. Then on Friday at Torrey Pines, he took the lead after his second round at the US Open.
Bland made seven birdies in a round of 67 at four under par, finishing his first 36 holes of his fourth major championship at five under par, one shot ahead of Louis Oosthuizen for the clubhouse lead. He would be the oldest 36-hole leader in the championship’s 121-year history.
Bland started his round at the 10th hole, where he made a 28-foot birdie putt. He hit an 18 foot on 16 and turned around two under par. On his second nine, he made three birdies over a five-hole span to go five-under on his round before dropping a shot at par three of the eighth.
If golf is becoming a young man’s game full of players who can bombard you off the tee, then the old guard is taking one last stand. Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship in May at the age of 50. Bland is only three years younger and would be the oldest US Open champion. Mickelson was 115th when he won at Kiawah Island; Bland came to Torrey Pines ranked, in a strange coincidence, 115th.
Bland turned pro in 1996, the same year another player currently in the top 10, Scottie Scheffler, was born. He played his first major, the Open Championship in 1998, before Matthew Wolff, also in the top 10, was alive. He only made one appearance at the US Open, and failed to make the cut at Bethpage in 2009.
US Open: Richard Bland has overcome many difficulties before
That long career has taken him to many places. Two years ago, at the age of 46, Bland lost his status on the European Tour. It would have been easy for a player his age to quit him, go find another job. He held his ground, playing on the Challenge Tour in 2019 in places like Slovakia and Morocco.
“Golf is all I know. When times got tough and I lost my card two or three times, I think, what am I going to do? Go find an office job. ” he said following their round on Friday. “So it was okay, it’s okay, I’ve always been someone who can put my head down and work hard, and I always knew I had the game to compete on the European Tour at the highest level. I always knew it “.
Bland is ranked 108th in driving distance so far this week. Bryson DeChambeau drives him 38 yards past him on average. He doesn’t even have a hat sponsor, instead wearing the headdress of his local club in England, The Wisley, which features a large white swan.
He was almost in tears when he won at the Belfry last month. All the miles traveled, all the countries visited, all the hard work you’ve put in for over 20 years, it finally paid off. He’s being rewarded for that patience and perseverance so far this week.
“The old saying is you get knocked down seven times and you get up eight times. I’ve always had that kind of move-on attitude. You never know in this game, just keep going, ”he said.
Bland never gave up his dream, and he has brought it here, halfway to the US Open title. He had a long shot at first, but he’s already shown this year that he doesn’t care in the least.