04 May 2022

Richard Bland: Very special feeling to be defending British Masters title

May 15th 2021 is a date that will always be etched in the memory of Richard Bland.

The Englishman woke up that morning knowing a low round could fulfil a lifelong ambition of finally winning on the DP World Tour after 477 failed attempts. Bland’s coach, Tim Barter, text him before his final round telling him to go out and shoot a 66 to give himself a chance of winning that elusive title – the Englishman did just that, before seeing off Guido Migliozzi in a play-off to seal one of the most emotional victories the Tour has ever witnessed. Memorable moments are few and far between in the golfing world but when ‘Blandy’ sunk that winning putt to become the oldest first time-winner on the circuit at the age of 48 he created widespread rejoice amongst his colleagues.

Since that triumph, Bland’s game has gone from strength to strength with a string of strong performances, including leading the 2021 U.S. Open after 36 holes and finishing runner-up earlier this year in a Rolex Series event at the Dubai Desert Classic, as well as enjoying a career-high finish on the DP World Tour Rankings last season (11th).  We caught up with him ahead of the defence of his title to find out where the resurgence in his game has come from.

How are you feeling heading into this week after the emotional victory last season?
It’s going to be great to be back at The Belfry. I visited as part of a Sky Sports documentary at the end of last year, but it will be brilliant to play the British Masters again and a very special and proud feeling to be defending.

How did it feel being interviewed by your coach Tim Barter right after you had sunk the winning putt?
It was an emotional moment and Tim will tell you the same thing! After the amount of work and time we have put in, it was incredible for him to be there to share that first win – a hugely satisfying moment – in that way and we both held it together, almost!

What’s the key to Mastering the Brabazon course and what advice would you give amateurs that have the fortune of playing the course?
If it’s the only time you’re ever going to play it, you just can’t lay up on the 10th, can you?

How would you describe your form over the last 12 months since that win at the British Masters and how has life changed off the course?
The win at the British Masters is the thing that rightly gets a lot of focus but there have been lots of other highlights, yes. I felt I was very consistent throughout 2021 and the U.S. Open was unbelievable. I got so much confidence from those two rounds at Torrey Pines because when I had my game, at the toughest test we’re set over the year, it stacked up against the best in the world. It was 36 holes and not 72 but at a U.S. Open you can’t fake it, even for 18 holes. It will find you out. Second in Dubai and then having a good run at the Match Play was amazing too. I’ve tried to keep things pretty similar off the course to be honest. I had surgery at the end of last year and along with that a pretty hectic schedule, with a few more tournaments in the U.S., there hasn’t been too much different.

You find yourself in the top five of the DP World Tour Rankings coming into this event. After your brilliant year in 2021, what targets have you set yourself for this season?
It was always going to be hard to top last year so I’ve got the attitude that I’m just going to ride it and see where it takes me. I’ve got some Majors to look forward to, including the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews, which is another bucket list tournament, and it’s going to be a special year. I’m not going to start setting big targets, I just want to compete as often as I can.

You’re currently ranked 53rd in the World Ranking and mixing it with some of the biggest hitters and young stars, how do you prepare differently, especially playing new courses around the world that are over 7,000+ yards?
I don’t do things any differently, even in an event like the Match Play, I just try to do what I do as well as I can. I’ve probably improved more since I turned 40, in the last six or seven years than my first 10 years on tour. It’s learning your trade, finding out what works and what doesn’t, and I think that takes time and then sticking to it. That’s what me and my coach Tim have done and in the last 10 years, we haven’t changed a thing swing wise. Sometimes it’s just your time. The satisfying thing is for me being 49 and being able to compete.

What would it mean to be able to tee it up at the Ryder Cup next year?
To even be in contention for that, lots of good golf would have to be played. I’d be lying if I said it was on my radar or was something I spend a lot of time thinking about. Good golf takes care of those kinds of things but if it was to happen it would be quite a story, wouldn’t it?

What advice would you give a talented youngster who is looking to turn professional?
My advice, of course, would be to work hard and find a coach that you understand, and know your golf swing inside out, so you’re not completely reliant on the coach. Work hard, particularly from within 150 yards because that’s where you can make the most gains in regards to lowering your scores.

How do you relax away from the course?
I love my bike and also watching Southampton, which has its moments!

If you went on a road trip for a week and could only take three passengers, who would you take?
I’d take my brother, former Saints footballer Matt Le Tissier and Jason Prewitt. The latter two are close friends to my brother and I. We’d be certain to enjoy the best time we could have.

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