Richard Bland is making just his second appearance at the World Golf Championship this week, six years after a T30 finish where he edged out Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson to name a few.
Many things have changed since then. The Englishman became the first oldest DP World Tour winner at the age of 48 years and 101 days when he beat Guido Migliozzi in the playoffs at the British Masters.
He then set another record – becoming the oldest player to hold a share of the lead after two rounds of the US Open. Although not 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 standings.
Aside from the big bucks he eventually spent on a trip to the Maldives (because, why don’t you?), he earned himself a spot in the WGC-Match Play field.
He must now open his tournament by facing Bryson DeChambeau, who is returning from injury. While the match has a real David vs. Goliath feeling, Bland was his usual realism.
Speaking to Golf Channel ahead of the tournament, he said: ‘Nobody expects me to pass’
While it might be, this pageant loves telling a Cinderella story. Tiger Woods, perhaps the best golfer the game has ever seen, was beaten twice by Australian southpaw Nick O’Hern. Woods, who was the defending Masters champion at the time, also lost to No. 64 seed and tournament reserve Peter O’Malley in 2002. Before the match, he, too, said words similar to Bland: “I had a no-loss situation. Nobody expected me to win.
“I know I’m hitting my second shots first tomorrow, and that’s great,” Bland said. “I can’t be too attracted to what Bryson does. I just have to do what I do really well. I drive the ball a bit shorter than him, but I like to think I’m going to be onside most of the time. And then when I have the clubs that score in my hands, that’s where I have to be very good this week. Every time I have a corner in my hand, if I can get it closer and put some pressure on it, then who knows.
“We’re playing two completely different games, but that’s the beauty of match play, isn’t it? He’s the favourite, of course, but he has a game ahead of him.
Bland plans to qualify for the PGA Tour champions at the end of this year, but before that he only has eyes for a trip to Augusta National. The 49-year-old is ranked 60th in the Official World Golf Rankings and knows a strong finish could propel him into the top 50 where he will earn an invitation to golf heaven.
“I just have to enjoy it,” Bland said. “I have nothing to lose. Hopefully if I can have a good week there is a chance to make it to Augusta.” No one would blame him.