Richard Bland: Five things to know
March 25, 2022
By Staff , PGATOUR.COM
- March 25, 2022
- Richard Bland tied Bryson DeChambeau in an opening-day match at the 2022 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Bryson DeChambeau's return to competition after injury was one of Wednesday's dominant storylines on Day 1 at the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play, but his opponent perhaps took an even more remarkable road to Austin Country Club.
Richard Bland, 49, who played DeChambeau to a tie in their Group 9 match on Day 1 of group play, went viral in May 2021 thanks to his emotional interview after winning his first DP World Tour title. He then played his way into early contention at last summer's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, ultimately finishing T50, and continued to display strong form over the past year en route to qualifying for his first WGC-Dell Match Play via the Official World Golf Ranking.
Bland then proceeded to defeat Talor Gooch and Lee Westwood on Thursday and Friday respectively, earning a spot in Saturday's Round of 16.
Here are five things to know about one of the WGC-Dell Match Play's most unlikely competitors:
1. Bland’s first DP World Tour win was a long time coming. His win at the British Masters in May 2021 made him the oldest first-time winner in that circuit’s history. It came in his 478th start. Only Malcolm Mackenzie (509) had made more starts before winning his maiden DP World Tour title.
Bland holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, then beat Italy’s Guido Migliozzi in a playoff.
In a video call with his parents, Bland asked his mother if she was OK. “No!” she said through tears of joy. “I’ve waited for this so long. We’re absolutely proud of you.”
Bland won the Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2001 to earn his DP World Tour card. He lost a playoff in the Irish Open in 2002, then had to wait 15 years for his next runner-up finish. He also finished second in the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship.
2. He arrived in Texas displaying some of the best form of his career, enjoying his highest career positioning on the Official World Golf Ranking as he approaches age 50 and the accompanying idea of PGA TOUR Champions. Prior to last year, his career-best position on the Official World Golf Ranking was No. 102 in 2016. He currently stands No. 60.
After earning time in the spotlight at the British Masters and U.S. Open, he kept the pedal down, recording seven more top-10 finishes on the DP World Tour since returning from Torrey Pines, including a runner-up at the Dubai Desert Classic in late January -- where he finished one ahead of Rory McIlroy and lost a playoff to Viktor Hovland.
3. This is just Bland's third PGA TOUR start in the United States. He missed the cut after shooting 77-70 in the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, before his T50 at the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He has made five career starts in major championships; he has competed in three Open Championships, finishing T67 in 2021, T22 in 2017 and missing the cut in 1998. He was two shots off the lead after the opening round of the 2017 Open.
4. Bland had to return to the Challenge Tour, Europe’s version of the Korn Ferry Tour, as recently as 2019. “I said to my coach Tim Barter, 'What am I going to do the next three or four years?'” he wrote in a blog on DPWorldTour.com. “It was definitely a low point, but I always had that belief that I could still compete, and win, on the (DP World Tour).”
It was the fourth time that Bland graduated from the Challenge Tour.
5. Bland’s brother, Heath, was hospitalized in late 2017 with what he believed to be the flu. His heart stopped for a few seconds and he spent several weeks in a a medically-induced coma.
“I would never, ever put what happened to my brother as the excuse for losing my card, but I wasn’t at the races for the first six months of that year. He was the priority, and rightly so, because his health would always be more important than whatever I achieved in golf,” Bland wrote.