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Richard Bland Secures Emotional Win at British Masters

By: | Mon 17 May 2021 | Comments


Richard Bland rewrote the record books, securing his first European Tour title at the 478th attempt and in the process becoming the tour’s oldest first-time winner at the age of 48. He beat Guido Migliozzi, a man half his age, at the first play-off hole to land the British Masters.

He arrived at The Belfry third on the list of players with most appearances without a win and recorded only one bogey in 72 holes. 

After carding a closing 66 with a birdie on the last to get to 13 under, he parred the first extra hole as Italian Migliozzi, who was just 18 months old when Bland made his European Tour debut, three putted.

England’s Dave Coupland, Finn Mikko Korhonen and Poland’s Adrian Meronk finished a shot out of the play-off, one clear of Andy Sullivan and South Africa’s Dean Burmester.

Bland made his European Tour debut at the 1998 Open Championship. A European Challenge Tour graduate in 2001, 2004 and 2008, he also came through the Qualifying School in 2007 and 2011 before finishing 27th in the Race to Dubai in 2016. But he lost his card in 2018, headed back to the Challenge Tour and became the oldest ever graduate at the age of 46.

Asked to describe his emotions, he said: "I can’t. Next question.

“It’s probably going to take a few days to sink in," he said. "It’s what I’ve worked for for 20 years. I’ve had a few close calls and I assume someone up there was looking down on me quite favourably today. A big incentive for me this year was to get to 500 events and this will allow me to do that, which I’ll be hugely proud of.

“I loved it down the stretch out there. I had a one shot lead with six holes to play and hit the shots when I needed to and that’s a huge confidence boost going forwards. Who knows? Maybe it’s like buses. None come around for ages and then two come along in quick succession.”

On his return to the Challenge Tour in 2019, he added: "I was 46 at the time: what am I going to do for the next three or four years? I'm getting fatter as it is, I'm only going to be getting worse. Just get your head down and do the job, no disrespect to the other players, I wasn't there to make any friends. I did make friends and it was great but it was just purely, get your head down, get the job done and get back to where I felt I belong."

Bland left himself seven feet at the first, made a two putt gain at the third and holed from 12 feet at the seventh to turn in 33.

An 18 footer at the tenth had him in the leading group and when he holed a sensational putt from twice that distance after being bang on line at the par three 12th, he was the man to catch.

He missed his chances at the par five 15th and 17th and soon had company at the top in the shape of Korhonen.

After putting approach shot inside 10 feet at the fourth, seventh, eighth and tenth, the 40-year-old got up and down from the sand on the 17th with a 16 footer.

But ahead on the last, Bland - after only just clearing the water off the tee - holed a 28 foot putt to bring a fist pumping celebration and set the target ahead of the longest 90 minutes of his golfing life. Korhonen parred the last to finish 12 under after a 67 but following what had been a steady round, Migliozzi burst into life.

He had holed a 15 footer on the third and got up and down from the sand at the ninth to turn in 34. He was one roll from a birdie at the tenth and inches from another from 50 feet on the 12th but he laid up on the 15th and made a gain from six feet and then put his second to two feet at the next to join the lead.

With Bland watching on a television in the practice area, Migliozzi could then only make par after getting on the 17th green in two and headed up the last - the most difficult hole on the course this week - needing a par. After a poor tee shot, the 24-year-old did well to find the greenside bunker and he showed nerves of steel to get up and down and take it to the play-off.

Meronk had birdied the first and bogeyed the 13th before making a hat-trick of gains from the 15th and missing a putt to get into the play-off on the last in his 69. Coupland had been level par for his round after 13 holes but made the most of the 15th and then holed from 72 feet for an eagle on the 17th and 46 feet for a birdie on the last in a 68. Sullivan carded a 69, one shot better than Burmester.

PGA Tour

K.H. Lee survived a downpour and a delay in play to record his maiden PGA Tour victory in sensational fashion at the Byron Nelson in Dallas.

His life-changing win earned him fully-exempt status until the end of the 2022-23 PGA Tour season, 500 FedExCup points and entry into this week's PGA Championship.

He defied sodden conditions to shoot a final round of 66 for a 25-under-par total of 263 and a three-shot victory over Sam Burns, who once again failed to convert a 54-hole lead. 

Heavy rain fell most of the back nine for the leaders, with puddles on greens over the final holes. The field battled through the deluge before lightning forced a delay.

Most of the standing water was gone when play resumed two hours and 23 minutes later. Lee missed a par putt at the 16th to reduce his lead to two, but came back with two birdies. The sun came out just as Lee holed his final putt.

Burns struggled to a 71 to finish at 22 under, a shot ahead of Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Patton Kizzire and Scott Stallings. Troy Merritt and Joseph Bramlett finished two more back at 19 under.

Jordan Spieth, three behind at the start of the day, shot 71 and tied for ninth, giving him his first top 10 in what is his home event. 

South Korea’s Sung Kang was the defending champion after winning in 2019.

Threesomes started from the first and 10th tees just after daybreak to try to beat a forecast calling for increasing rain throughout the day. Steady rain for two-plus hours got progressively worse as players began ducking for cover under umbrellas immediately after shots and constantly wiped grips with towels. From the start of the round, they got to lift, clean and place their shots in the fairways.

Lee overtook Burns, who shot 70, before it got really wet. The 29-year-old from Seoul went ahead for good with a birdie on the par-four third and stretched the lead to four at the eighth when he put his second shot four feet from the hole and duly drained the putt.

He will now get his third shot at a major after twice missing the cut at the U.S. Open. The first was in 2014, more than three years before his second PGA Tour appearance.

Burns secured his PGA Championship spot two weeks ago with his maiden victory at the Valspar Championship when he converted a 54-hole lead into a win after two failed attempts this season. The 54-hole lead again got away from the 24-year-old, who was trying to become the first player since Camilo Villegas in 2008 to get his first two PGA TOUR victories in consecutive starts.

Seamus Power, from Ireland, was 21 under through eight holes but fell back with a rare double bogey at the par-4 13th on a course that yielded nearly 100 scores in the 60s in the opening round. Power shot 70 and was in the group at 18 under with Spieth, Jhonattan Vegas (67) and Doc Redman (70).

Kizzire, the only player with two rounds of 64 or better, was 8 under for the day through 12 before settling for his 63. He vaulted in contention with a second-round 64 before a 71 Saturday.


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