SAN DIEGO – Richard Bland’s Twitter profile describes him as a professional European Tour golfer with “a few weekends off”.
Until about a month ago, Bland was also a winless golfer on the European Tour – having competed in 477 events for 19 years.
Bland, 48, finally made a breakthrough at the British Masters at The Belfry in May, beating Italy’s Guido Migliozzi on a playoff hole to become the oldest first-time European Tour winner.
Bland’s unlikely dream continued on Friday after opening a one-stroke lead with a total of 36 under-5 holes after the early morning flurry of players in the second round of the US Open at Torrey Pines.
“I knew [my game] was pretty good, Bland said. I had just achieved some good results, a victory and a third in Europe. I felt pretty good about my game. I’ve been handling the ball well for five, six weeks now, which is the cornerstone if you want to fight for a US Open. “
The Englishman delivers more than a fight. A day after Bland opened with a 1-under-70, he birdied seven while registering a 4-under 67.
Not bad for a player who waited 23 years to win the European Tour.
“As with any golf career, you’re going to have highs and lows,” said Bland. “Of course you are. But I think all types of sportsmen, sportswomen, have this attitude of never dying or never quitting, it doesn’t matter if it’s golf, tennis or boxing. “It doesn’t matter what it is. The old adage is you get knocked down seven times, you get up eight times. I’ve always had that kind of attitude that you keep going. You never know in this game, you just keep going. “
There were plenty of opportunities to quit. He lost his European Tour card three times, as recently as 2018, when he returned to the European Challenge Tour at 46. This professional setback came after her brother fell ill and was placed in a medically induced coma.
“Golf is all I know,” said Bland. “When times get tough and I’ve lost my card two or three times, I’m like, ‘What am I going to do, go get a desk job?’ I’m not that smart, I’m afraid. I’ve always been someone who can keep a cool head and work hard, and I always knew I had the game to take part in the European Tour at the highest level. always knew that. “
England’s Lee Westwood, who has won the European Tour 25 times and the PGA Tour twice, said Bland was more than talented enough to win before him.
“Richard has always been a very stable player,” Westwood told ESPN. “I think everyone was surprised it took him so long to win. He doesn’t hit a lot of destructive punches and he has a perfect match for the US Open. The only thing that surprises me is is it [his second] US Open, and you must understand how to play on a US Open golf course. I am not surprised by the quality of his playing. “
Regardless of how the weekend unfolds, those at the US Open have found inspiration in Bland’s persistence.
“Well, it’s incredibly inspiring,” said defending champion Bryson DeChambeau. “You watch what Phil [Mickelson] did, right, win a middle finger [last month’s PGA Championship at age 50], it gives him hope, and it also gives me hope to play for a very, very long time, and I think that’s really inspiring. I love that in the game, that anyone, any age group, can play this great game and compete and fight. If you have the skills to put the ball in the hole with the fastest number of shots, the fewest shots, you can be up there with the young guns. “
Bland’s victory at the British Masters propelled him from world No.218 to No.115. It also sent him to his fourth major – he missed cups at the 1998 Open Championship and the 2009 US Open. at Bethpage Black. In the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, Bland led for a hole and finished tied for 22nd.
“You know, in the qualifiers that we have in Europe, I think I lost four times in the playoffs for that, for a US Open, and I lost three times in qualifying for the Open,” said Bland. “Maybe I could have played closer to double-digit majors, but that’s not quite the case, and I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I’m just enjoying this one. at the moment.”
And the European Tour player “with a few weekends off” won’t miss this one – although he’s not a household name and doesn’t have the well-known sponsorships of other players. He wears a black hat with a white swan, which he brought to California from his home course, Wisley Golf Club in Woking, England.
“I don’t have a hat contract right now,” Bland said. “So if anyone proposes …”
If Bland continues to play this weekend like he did in the first two rounds, he won’t have to worry about endorsements anymore.
“I’m just a guy who really won a golf tournament, when it comes down to it,” Bland said. “But while it all came together, I think it was just more satisfaction than anything I kind of got what I always wanted. I want more. Every golfer wants more. . I hope I can do it again. “
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