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Jul 1, 2024 2:54 pm

LIV’s Richard Bland claims U.S. Senior Open playoff, back-to-back majors

Richard Bland

England’s Richard Bland needed four playoff holes to get past Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan and win the rain-delayed U.S. Senior Open at Newport (R.I.) Country Club on Monday.

Bland claimed victory only after he hit the pin on a bunker shot on the fourth extra hole and then tapped in the putt for par. Fujita led the tournament virtually wire-to-wire but ended with consecutive bogeys on the par-4, 18th hole used for the final three holes in the playoff.

The victory marks the second consecutive major victory for Bland, who also won the Senior PGA last month and credits participation in LIV Golf for his career revival.

“To come out on top … I was just hoping going into the PGA that I was good enough to contend,” Bland said. “I hadn’t played against these guys. I knew, if I played the way I know I can play, it should be good enough to be able to compete. But, yeah, to be here with two majors is — yeah, I’m at a loss for words at the moment now.”

Bland said the bunker shot on the fourth extra hole was not all that complicated and he tried to normalize it as much as possible as if he was in a game with friends.

“It was just one where I had to stay aggressive, stay committed, and it came out perfect,” Bland said.

When rain hit Sunday afternoon to wash out part of the final round, Fujita had a three-shot lead with eight holes to play. But as he struggled to close out the victory, Bland moved into the lead after recording birdies at Nos. 14 and 15.

“It kind of felt like it was going to be harder to chase,” Bland said. “You’re trying to chase but also not make mistakes. He kind of maybe trips over once or twice, which I think maybe he did early.”

In addition to the pair of bogeys in the playoff, Fujita recorded a bogey on three of his first four holes when play resumed Monday.

“The wind was a little different today,” Fujita said. “It was the first time I’ve played Newport with this kind of wind. So I was definitely a little uneasy about that, and you can see the results out there, that some of the shots weren’t what I wished they were.”

Bland just needed a par on the 72nd hole Monday, but his bogey at No. 18 resulted in a tie at 13 under, 267, for the tournament. Richard Green of Australia finished three shots back in third place, while Steve Sticker was fourth at 9 under.

Bland trailed by five strokes when the final round began Sunday. He wasn’t even qualified for the U.S. Senior Open until he won the Senior PGA. The only players who have won senior majors on their first two tries are Arnold Palmer and Alex Cejka.

Bland also became the 12th player to win the U.S. Senior Open in their debut in the tournament.

“I’m a way better golfer than I was (before joining LIV), but I think that’s the caliber of players that I’m playing against on LIV,” Bland said. “To play against Bryson, who won just the other week at Pinehurst, to play against him, to play against Jon Rahm, Cam Smith, D.J., Brooks, they’re the best players in the world. I don’t care what the world ranking says. If I’m going to compete with those guys, I have to bring my game.”

–Field Level Media

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