It’s been a roller-coaster 16 months for all these gamers who signed as much as the LIV Golf League, together with Englishman Richard Bland, whose 25-year profession on the European Tour had seemed to be winding down earlier than alternative got here knocking. In an unique interview with GN Editor Nick Bayly, Richard reveals how the brand new codecs have helped reenergised his sport and why he’s wanting ahead to persevering with his  LIV journey earlier than ideas flip to a senior profession


For a person with such a beige sounding surname, Richard Bland’s life has been something however during the last two years, with the 50-year-old Surrey-based tour professional having gained his first European Tour occasion on the finish of 2021 amid emotional scenes at The Belfry, after which, simply 12 months later, defected to the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Collection.

Roll the calendar again two years and we discover the then 48-year-old Bland, the veteran of 478 European Tour occasions, and the very epitome of execs who are sometimes unfairly described as ‘journeymen’, dealing with a play-off in opposition to younger Italian star Guido Migliozzi for the 2021 British Masters title. Moments later, after successful the play-off, Bland broke down in tears when the burden of the second overcame a person who had toiled away unrewarded – by way of wins – for 2 over many years. Interviewed by Sky Sports activities on-course analyst Tim Barter, who additionally occurred to be Bland’s coach, and it wasn’t shocking to see the pair blubbing like infants by the top of the post-match chat.

Buoyed by his victory, a newly assured Bland proceeded to benefit from the season of his life, ending third within the following week’s match in Denmark, after which bagging six additional top-10 finishes in a season that noticed him end eleventh within the Race to Dubai, and earn nearly €1.2m in prize cash, taking his profession earnings to nearly €8m.

Taking that type into 2022, Bland nearly returned to the winner’s circle once more at January’s Dubai Desert Basic when birdieing the final two holes to drive a play-off in opposition to Viktor Hovland at Emirates Golf Membership. Nonetheless, it was the gifted younger Norwegian who took the title with a birdie on the first further gap. That near-miss noticed Bland’s world rating rise nonetheless additional to a brand new profession excessive of 53, and inside tantalising attain of gaining prompt entry to the most important championships and an invite to the Masters.

Sadly the invitation was not forthcoming, however he did earn a debut look within the WGC Matchplay in Texas in March, the place a tied ninth end – he gained two of his three group matches and beat Lee Westwood earlier than dropping 3&2 to Dustin Johnson within the spherical of 16 – additional raised his profile and confirmed that on the age of 49 he nonetheless had what it took to combine it with one of the best. He additionally teed it up on the US Open, the place he acquitted himself effectively sufficient with a tie for forty seventh, though he missed the minimize on the PGA Championship and the Open Championship. 

Simply two months after his WGC look, Bland, though not figuring out how the long run would play out, in all probability thought he had given up on his dream of ever taking part in at Augusta, and possibly one other PGA Tour or DP World Tour occasion, when signing for LIV Golf.

It was a transfer that took a lot of Bland’s supporters abruptly, however by way of chilly, onerous monetary phrases, was a totally comprehensible choice. Regardless of his heroics over the earlier 12 months, and the respectable prize haul, there was no future certainty over the place his profession was heading, and the motivation for a close to 50-year-old to hitch a circuit the place the minimal assured pay out at every occasion was $125,000, and a primary prize of $4m, proved too onerous to withstand for a person who was seeking to safe his household’s future on the backend of his taking part in profession. 

Eyes on the prize: Richard Bland has picked up over $4m in prize cash since becoming a member of LIV Golf final 12 months

For sure, like all the opposite gamers who signed as much as the start-up Saudi government-funded circuit, Bland got here in for no scarcity of criticism for becoming a member of Greg Norman’s merry band of males, a lot of whom have been considered previous their sell-by dates when it got here to competing on the world stage – though that proved considerably broad of the mark when LIV golfers stuffed 4 of the highest six locations on the Masters and Brooks Koepka gained final month’s US PGA Championship. That mentioned, the age of the gamers who joined LIV, a lot of whom have been of their late 40s and a number of other, together with Phil Mickelson, effectively into their 50s, gave rise to the view that gamers have been cashing in on their standing of yesteryear relatively than the careers they’d in entrance of them.

Whereas many LIV Golf gamers selected to resign their membership of the PGA Tour and/or the DP World Tour, relatively than being accused of making an attempt to have their cake and eat it, Bland was amongst various European and English golfers who, though effectively inside their rights on the time, selected to hold on to the twin standing for so long as he might, plying their commerce on each the LIV circuit and the DP World Tour when their schedule allowed. This resulted in some ugly scenes in locker rooms, and various heated exchanges on driving ranges and on social media as the brand new world order – or so it appeared on the time – took form.

Regardless of being a vocal critic on Twitter of how the DP World Tour had ceded energy to the PGA Tour by means of its new so-called ‘Strategic Alliance’, Bland performed within the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the Dunhill Hyperlinks Championship at St Andrews and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and he has additionally performed in Abu Dhabi and Dubai this season – ending eighth and tenth respectively – earlier than the expanded 2023 LIV Golf schedule kicked again into motion in February, though he, together with all the most of the different European LIV golfers, has since resigned his DP World Tour membership.

Bland has actually made no secret that he joined the LIV Golf circuit for the cash, but in addition for the chance it gave him to play a lowered schedule – LIV Golf has a schedule of 14 occasions in 2023, in comparison with the typical 26-30 occasions he performed annually on the DP World/European Tour – permitting him to spend extra time together with his household.

He has loved some wholesome returns on the breakaway circuit, with a best-placed end of fourth within the 48-player discipline in Bangkok final 12 months incomes him a hefty $1.17m pay out – greater than twice as a lot as he collected when successful the British Masters – and a complete of $4.9m from the 15 occasions he has performed in up to now.

Though born in Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, Bland has spent most of his 27-year life as a tour skilled based mostly in Southampton and was an everyday customer to close by Stoneham Golf Membership, the place the membership named its new half-way home in his honour final 12 months. He now lives in Woking in Surrey, and is a member at The Wisley, the place he helps preserve his sport form between LIV occasions. 

Having simply turned 50, Bland plans on persevering with to play the LIV Golf circuit earlier than having a tilt on the Champions Tour in America

Chatting with Bland forward of his look at LIV Golf’s solely UK occasion, which as soon as once more, is being staged at Centurion Membership in Hertfordshire subsequent month, and in gentle of the latest merger between the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Saudi PIF, which bankrolls LIV Golf, I requested him what he product of the choice and the way it will influence on his schedule going ahead?

“To be sincere, there’s nonetheless a lot that we don’t learn about how issues will pan out that it will be silly to even try to speculate how {the golfing} panorama will look subsequent 12 months,” he tells me. “I don’t suppose it’s going to even be till 2025 that the total image will emerge, however all I can let you know is that I’m very completely happy taking part in on the LIV circuit and can proceed to take action till I’m advised in any other case.”

Requested whether or not that implies that he might be making use of to resume his DP World Tour membership subsequent season and play a mixed schedule, he says: “No, I’ve no plans to get again on the DP World Tour. On the stage I’m at in my profession, I’ve to ask myself what number of extra DP World occasions am I truly going to play? I’m actually pleased with the schedule that we’ve received with LIV, particularly with the expanded variety of occasions we’ve had this 12 months, and if I do must play extra there are at all times Asian Tour occasions that I can play in, such because the one they’re internet hosting at Shut Home subsequent month.”

Bland, or relatively LIV, paid up the £100,000 fantastic that he was issued for taking part in on the launch occasion at Centurion Membership final 12 months, though this time round there might be no fines attributable to having handed again his DP World membership and likewise due to the brand new alliance between the three excursions. After having received to the know the course final 12 months, Bland is eager to get again there and see if he can enhance on the thirty first place he achieved 12 months in the past.

“I used to be very impressed with Centurion, it was an excellent take a look at, with some sturdy holes. I keep in mind it was fairly breezy that week, which made life robust, particularly on a number of the holes which might be extra uncovered across the center a part of the course, and while you got here into the bushes the wind was swirling round, so it was actually a problem. Will probably be attention-grabbing to see the way it performs this 12 months with the recent climate we’ve be having, so I anticipate will probably be taking part in fairly agency and quick, however I’m actually wanting ahead to getting again there at what would be the first match venue that LIV has returned to.”

After over 25 years taking part in 72-hole stroke play occasions with a minimize, Bland, like all the opposite LIV golfers, has needed to adapt to the brand new 54-hole format, the place there’s little time to get better from a foul begin. Nonetheless, with out a minimize, Bland says there’s extra time than you suppose to work your approach into the combination. 

“With any match, should you shoot a poor first spherical you’re placing your self behind the eight ball, however with LIV you’ve a minimum of received 36 holes to rectify it, whereas should you shoot three or 4 over within the first spherical of a standard tour occasion you’re in all probability going dwelling except you’re the identical underneath par for the second spherical. So yeah, it’s it’s a little completely different, however I’m having fun with it.”

Whereas baring the Ryder Cup, staff occasions are usually not a part of the DP World expertise, Bland can also be having fun with the staff format of LIV, and has constructed up stable bonds together with his fellow Cleek GC gamers, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Bernd Weisberger.

“I’ve actually just like the staff facet of LIV,” he says. “Though we’re all nonetheless taking part in as people, it’s been good to get to know the fellows on a extra private degree. All of us get on nice and it’s been good to spend time with all of them on and off the course – taking part in observe rounds, having dinner and that type of factor. We’ve received an excellent staff spirit going and it actually spurs you on to wish to attempt to contribute to the staff.”

Having simply turned 50, Bland has one eye on extending his profession on the over-50s circuits, however is already leaning in direction of the PGA Champions Tour in America relatively than the Legends Tour, the European equal.

“Yeah, I’d in all probability desire America as a result of it’s a bit of extra aggressive, and fewer about Professional-Ams. Clearly, there is a little more journey concerned however a variety of European guys have gone over there and accomplished effectively, so it’s one thing I’d defiantly take into account if the chance arose.”

Of extra rapid curiosity is his imminent look at The Open Championship at Hoylake subsequent month, the place he might be teeing it up in golf’s oldest main for what is going to solely be the fifth time of his profession. Requested what expectations he has of his return to main championship golf for the primary time since final 12 months’s Open at St Andrews,, Bland says:

“I’m actually wanting ahead to it. I’m certain it’s going to be a fantastic occasion, and I’m delighted to be part of it. Hopefully, the climate might be sort, however given the previous few weeks it’s sure to be quick and fiery. I’ll head up there the week earlier than and get my bearings, because it’s been a very long time since I final performed Hoylake, however I really like the problem and the creativity required for hyperlinks golf. I’m not the longest off the tee, however I can typically preserve it play, so hopefully that may serve me effectively.” 



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