A month after his emotional maiden win on the European Tour, 48-year-old Richard Bland is celebrating having the lead at the US Open after a second-round 67 swept him to five under par at Torrey Pines
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 18/06/21 9:19pm
Richard Bland took the US Open by storm as he raced into the outright lead midway through the second day at Torrey Pines.
With his confidence still at an all-time high a month on from winning his maiden European Tour title in his 478th start at the British Masters, Bland continued to impress and fired a second-round 67 which earned him the early clubhouse lead on five under par.
Having opened with a resolute 70 in his first US Open start since missing the cut on his debut in 2009, Bland set the tone for his second round with a superb start, holing from 30 feet for birdie at the 10th before he picked up another shot at the long 13th.
The rejuvenated 48-year-old took a step back with an errant approach to the 15th, but his distance control with his irons allied with some assured putting was rewarded with back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17, where he holed from 10 feet to force his way into a share of the lead.
Bland pulled his drive at 18 into trouble on the left and he needed four shots to find the green, closing out the back nine with a disappointing six before he did well to scramble a priceless par at the first.
His accuracy from the fairway returned at the second as he got back to four under following a pure approach to six feet, and he clipped another short-iron in close at the fourth to set up the birdie that swept him into the outright lead.
Bland picked up another shot at the sixth to open up a two-stroke advantage over the field, although he suffered a bad break at the short eighth – his tee shot coming up a few yards short and plugging in the front bunker, leading to his third blemish of the day.
But he completed another stellar performance with a cast-iron par at the ninth that ensured he would have the clubhouse lead after the early wave, and he revealed he took a liking to the South Course as soon as he arrived at Torrey Pines with his game in great shape.
“I’m coming off a couple of good results, a win and a third in Europe, so I was feeling pretty good about my game,” said Bland. “I’ve been driving the ball well for five, six weeks now, which is the cornerstone if you’re going to put a fight up for a US Open.
“When I saw this place on Monday, it kind of set up to my eye. There’s not too many sort of doglegs, it’s all there just straight in front of me, and that’s the kind of golf course I like. There’s nothing kind of jumping out and grabbing you or anything like that.
“When I saw the course Monday, I thought ‘yeah, I can play around here’.”
Bland is playing only his fourth major in four different decades, and he has now set his sights on achieving his dream goal of qualifying for the Masters.
“I’m a professional golfer, but I’m also a golf fan,” he added. “I love watching the Masters, especially I’ve been fortunate enough to play there with a friend of mine. There’s nothing like the back nine of a Masters.
“Hopefully if I can keep playing the way I’m playing, maybe next year I might be able to experience it, or the year after that would be unbelievable. That would be a proper dream come true.
“I’ve lost in a playoff four times trying to qualify for a US Open, and I’ve lost three times in Open qualifying, so I could have maybe played closer to double-figure majors, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over that. I’m just enjoying this one right now.”
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June 19, 2021, 4:00pm