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It’s difficult to comprehend just how different life on tour is now for Richard Bland to even just a couple of years ago.

You will all remember when the Englishman, in his 478th start on the European Tour, finally got his breakthrough win at the British Masters to become the oldest first-time champion on the circuit.

Then a few months later, Bland signed for Saudi Arabia’s start-up LIV Golf League, a move which has proved beneficial not only for his game, but his bank balance. Bland was also one player who seemed immune from criticism. Why wouldn’t you at his age, we all bellowed into our social media accounts.

Two years later, and now 51, Bland believes he is “the best player I have ever been”.

But while that move prevented him playing on the DP World and PGA Tours, it hasn’t stopped him competing in the senior majors. He took advantage of that by winning both Senior PGA Championship and US Senior Open in quick succession and a 100 per cent win rate in the over-50s division.

“I’m a way better golfer than I was back then,” he added following his playoff victory over Hiroyuki Fujita at Newport Country Club.

“But I think that’s the calibre of players that I’m playing against on LIV. To play against Bryson [DeChambeau], who won just the other week at Pinehurst, to play against Jon Rahm, Cam Smith, DJ (Dustin Johnson), Brooks [Koepka], they’re the best players in the world.”

A tie for 29th at the 2022 Texas Open moved Bland to a career-high 48th in the Official World Golf Ranking – but that position has plummeted since his move to LIV, and he currently resides in 661st. Not that it matters to him.

“I don’t care what the world ranking says,” he said. “If I’m going to compete with those guys, I have to bring my A-game. I have to. I can’t bring my C-game, and it won’t stack up against those.

“It just elevates my game, and I think it’s done that unbelievably over the last three years. It’s just made me a better player. You’re not always going to be playing your best golf, but I’m the best player I’ve ever been.”

Aside from those two major wins, which saw him hold off the likes of Bernhard Langer, Steve Stricker, Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, Bland is enjoying life on his domestic circuit. His Cleeks GC colleagues recently won their first team event at the LIV Houston event, and he is currently 25th in the individual season-long standings which should lock up his place for another year.

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Richard Bland is now a two-time senior major champion. (Credit: Getty Images)

But behind the smile is heartache.

Bland’s brother, Heath, has been battling cancer for several years and is due to undergo another operation in the coming weeks. After his Senior PGA Championship victory, Bland said the trophy would be kept by his sibling, while the US Senior Open trophy will be in his own home in Southampton that he shares with wife Catrin.

“He’s always in the back of our minds,” Bland explained. “It’s been a tough 15, 16 months for him and the family. Hopefully he’s going to have some surgery soon to get rid of the tumour from his lung.

“We had some good news that it’s not going to be hugely invasive surgery. It’s only going to be keyhole, and it’s going to be only an overnight stay.

“When he had his surgery three, four months ago for his bowel cancer, he was in hospital for nearly six weeks, and it was a 15-hour operation.

“We’re just praying that once this is hopefully gone, that’s it for him. It’s one of those diseases that we wish we could eradicate. You wouldn’t want to wish it on anyone’s life. You hear the statistics that it’s one in every two people get it, and you always think it won’t happen to [you].

“When it does, it’s like a train wreck. It’s an absolute train wreck.

“I was fortunate to win the PGA and I get the replica for that this week. I’ve always said that’s his. He can have that. That was always for him.”

Looking at the US Senior Open trophy, he added: “But this one right here, this one’s for me and my wife.

“I’ve been away for four weeks now. I’m just looking forward to getting back home and seeing the family.”


author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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